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 conservation, 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 main aim is to establish a network of long-term farming systems comparison field trials, in concert with on-farm research, awareness creating action plans and political debates.

Project activities have started in August 2005 with the planning of the long-term field trial at two sites in Kenya. In early 2006, planning started at one site in Madhya Pradesh, Central India and later in the same year the first crops were grown in both Kenya and India. In 2007, it was decided to build up a third trial site in Bolivia, which was then planted in 2008. The first fase of the project was focused on building up the experiments at the different locations, and the second phase (2011–2014) focused on the consolidation of the research work and publication of first results.

In January 2015 the project went into the third phase (2015-2018). In this phase the project teams in the partner countries will continue to manage the trials in the best possible manner and will continue to collect data on important agronomic, ecological and economic parameters. An important focus of this phase would be to explore the enormous amounts of available data and to publish the results in international peer-reviewed journals. Many excellent publications are in the pipeline and excellent high-impact journals are targeted to publish the results.