There is substantial evidence that carrying on business as usual with the prevalent agricultural management practices is not a sustainable option, particularly when considering the issues associated with climate change, biodiversity loss and depletion of natural resources. Several alternative production systems, including agroecology and organic farming, are proposed for their environmental and social benefits. It is, however, legitimate to question whether alternative farming practices can contribute to sustainable development as they are often perceived to be based on ideology. Studies conducted under temperate environments (mostly in Europe) have established the benefits of organic farming practices over conventional practices. However, several questions remain open regarding the performance of organic systems under tropical conditions. The SysCom program has addressed this gap by over a dozen years of successful participatory and production systems research dedicated to the development of sustainable agricultural systems in the tropics.
In 2021, the SysCom team published a first report (download) which provided a comprehensive synthesis of the scientific findings of SysCom presented in a form that is easy to understand for an ‘educated non-expert’ audience. The findings address the differences between alternative (organic and agroforestry) and conventional production systems in terms of:
- Productivity: yields of main and by-crops
- Profitability: gross margins and return on (economic and labour) investment
- Soil fertility and quality: nutrient availability, soil organic carbon and other soil physico-chemical properties
- Other indicators: pesticide residues and nutrient content, biodiversity, resource use efficiency and agroecosystem resilience
The conclusions drawn from the results and subsequent recommendations for policy stakeholders, you can find here: