Organic farming versus TerraCottem (TC) soil conditioner
Having read the publication “Organic farming in Africa : Which way to go?” by Josephat Juma
see my former posting on this blog, I was remembering a comment on “organic farming” I wrote already in 2004. Here comes that text:
“On October 4, 2004, Raymond E. ROMESTANT, a senior writer/editor, published an article titled “Surety and Belief. The organic spirit in Saudi Arabia” in Ecology and Farming, IFOAM, Charles-de-Gaulle Strasse 5, D-53113, Bonn, Germany.’
The author describes fantastic results obtained by Watania Agriculture with the so-called organic farming method in Saudi Arabia. Here are some of the most important extracts of his text:
1. In 1994, Sheik Sulaiman Al-Rahji, personally challenged by the ecological consequences of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on his farms, and driven by the goal of contributing to an ecologically healthy future, pronounced that he would no longer allow the use of any synthetic inputs at any of his agricultural projects.
2. The history of modern agriculture in Saudi Arabia is like the history of most anything else modern in Saudi Arabia: brief and swift. It began in the late 1970s after unprecedented income from oil revenues, when the government decided to invest in the agricultural sector, for, among other reasons, to expand the nonoil private sector economy. For strategic, practical and political reasons, wheat was the crop of choice for this purpose, and significant subsidies and loan schemes were granted to farmers such that the next twenty years witnessed massive growth.
3. Development from 1977 to 1985 was so rapid that the one centre-pivot irrigation system in 1977 had become 20,000 in 1985 – almost all dedicated to irrigating wheat. From 1985 to 1992 the growth continued, …
4. However, in 1985 government emphasis shifted toward diversification away from dependence on wheat, which, from 1992 was coupled with water conservation.
5. Today the focus has shifted to the continued introduction and expansion of crops such as maize (grain and silage), potatoes, onions, watermelon, forage and some fruit crops. The number of centre-pivot irrigation systems has now reached 40,000, second highest in the world after the USA, delivering water to over 1.5 million hectares. The result of this is that the Kingdom is now self-sufficient in a number of crops, including potatoes, fresh milk, eggs, watermelon and dates, and is 50% self-sufficient in red meat, poultry meat, tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables, and grapes.
6. Modern organic agriculture has an even shorter, but no less striking history. It began around 1994 in Al-Jouf with Sheik Sulaiman’s Al-Rahji Company for Agriculture, and his decision to stop using any chemical fertilizers on the fruit farms, which amounted to more than 50,000 apple, peach, apricot and pear trees. This conviction remained until 1996, when, after attending several conferences in Europe, it became a full-blown desire to convert to organic pesticides, after which the more holistic organic concept, or what they call ‘the complete view’, finally emerged. The company now deals with the concept of organic farming in its all-inclusive meaning of ‘thinking and living to achieve environmental safety, sustainability and improvement.’
7. The company was renamed Watania Agriculture in 1998, when the conversion to organic farming first began, …
8. A two-year contract to obtain international certification brought inspectors from France and Germany every six months to conduct inspections until, finally in 2001, Watania Agriculture, an ISO:9000 registered company, was given the stamp of Ecocert. In five years time they believe all their products will be certified organic.
9. Public awareness, another common challenge facing all organic producers, has been improving. The last five years has seen a ‘big’ difference in sales for Watania Agriculture, as the local population is beginning to ‘trust’ both in the definition of organic and Watania Agriculture’s ability to satisfy the demands implicit in that designation.
10. But the most difficult challenge they face, and one unique to the Kingdom, is the challenge of the pioneer. There is just no history of organic agriculture in Saudi Arabia nor a background of experience, training, skills, or education from which they can build and develop. In that sense the people at Watania Agriculture are true pioneers; everything they do is experimental. ‘We are walking a lonely road,’ said Dr Malahy.
11. Both Watania Agriculture and the Kingdom’s organic farming sector received its initial boost in September 2003, when the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Saudi and Riyadh Chambers of Commerce, hosted an Organic Food and Farming Seminar in Riyadh. SAGIA’s former Chairman, Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki Al-Saud, who is especially keen to promote organic farming, hoped that the seminar would spark a healthy dialogue, while at the same time formally expressing the Kingdom’s endorsement of the organic cause.
12. Since then SAGIA, now under the helm of HE Mr Amr Al-Dabbagh, has continued to devote itself to supporting the organic/natural cause, …It has continued to work alongside Watania, as well as a few other Saudi farms converting to organic management; maintained dialogues and strategic partnerships with international organizations such as GTZ, UNIDO and FAO; and finally and most importantly kept in mind the surety of Prince Abdullah’s belief that the organic sector offers not only a great investment opportunity, but the best way to improve the health of the nation, or as he so nicely stated, ‘save our people’. And, isn’t saving the people and the world what the spirit of organic farming is all about?
So far for parts of the content of Mr. ROMESTANT’s article on organic farming.
It goes without saying that excellent results can be booked with this “modern” way of producing crops. The success of Watania Agriculture is undeniable. Nevertheless, let me try to show that the notion “organic farming” is for the least a “discussable” matter, although fully accepting that a lot of environmental harm has been done by exaggerating with mineral fertilizers, e.g. polluting our ground water.
Continue reading Organic farming versus TerraCottem (TC) soil conditioner