Background and objectives

In 1978 the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) started a long-term experiment in Switzerland comparing organic and conventional farming, now widely known as the DOK trial, which is still running. The findings of this experiment were published in Science in 2002 (Mäder et al., 2002) with a big response in the scientific world. The results show the potential and advantages of organic farming regarding resource efficiency, ecosystem functioning and soil fertility while maintaining a high production level. Organic agriculture could thus be a promising option for sustainable agricultural intensification in the South. A decision was made to start a project similar to the DOK trial in tropical countries, to provide solid agronomic and socio-economic data on the performance of major agriculture production systems in a long-term scope and to bring the discussion about the risks and benefits of organic farming in developing tropical countries to a rational level.

The overall goal of the SysCom program is "Enhanced know-how on potentials and limitations of different agricultural production systems in three tropical countries contributes to sustainable agriculture". The goal can be reached by accomplishing the following two outcomes:

  • Program Outcome 1: "Science-based know-how on the comparative performance of organic and conventional agricultural production systems in different agro-ecological regions in the tropics (India, Kenya and Bolivia) is made available and taken up by the stakeholders." This outcome will contribute to establishing a scientific base for organic agriculture in developing countries on the basis of the existing long-term experiments (LTE).
  • Program Outcome 2: "Sustainable agricultural production systems in project areas are fostered through participatory development of innovations addressing bottlenecks and by improved capacities of partner institutions." This outcome includes the participatory on-farm research (POR) and capacity building activities.