Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 20-29
Organic farming: Hope for the sustainable livelihoods of future
generations in Pakistan
Abdul Sattar Anjum
*, Roshan Zada
and Waqarul Hassan Tareen
ABSTRACT Organic farming is centuries old human and natural intervention which has been eco-friendly
and economically viable. It comprises eco-friendly agricultural techniques leading towards the maximum
production without using chemical inputs. Nature friendly farming approach helps in reducing the negative
effects of environmental pollution by recycling crop rotation, using crop debris, farm yard manure, pest
control with biological methods, appropriate tillage, cultivating legumes to add organic matter in the soil and
to mitigate the climate hazards. A majority of rural population in Pakistan is willing to adapt the organic
farming practices to save their input costs for better livelihoods. The present component of Pakistan economy
is agriculture which contributes 21% to GDP and adds more than 45% labor in agricultural activities. The
Pakistani farm-home women are playing a great role in agricultural development and livestock management.
Organic farming is efficient for eco-system providing a balance in the life of human, crops and animals; hence
leading to the sustainability of the system.
Keywords: Agricultural development, Food security, Future prospects, Livelihoods, Organic farming
Outreach Institute, National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad, Pakistan
Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
*Corresponding author: Abdul Sattar Anjum (
To cite this article as: Anjum, A. S., Zada, R., & Tareen, W. H. (2016). Organic farming: Hope for the
sustainable livelihoods of future generations in Pakistan. Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture, 1(1),
Organic farming movement started in many countries in response to the dangers to the livelihoods of the
farming community and their surroundings (Rundgren, 2006). Now-a-days, 85% of the world produce is
contributed by smallholders that supply food to the needy population. A majority of the smallholders face
poverty and cannot afford costly inputs (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
[IFOAM], 2015).
Due to increase of contaminants in food items contributed by chemical pesticides and fertilizers; health
risks are increasing at a high level. These chemicals also have bad effect on wildlife as well as other beneficial
organisms like earth worms which help in improving the soil health (Maass Wolfenson, 2013). Organic
farming is the solution to recover the soil made of salt intake by local natural organic matter as a ground
cover with compost and organic fertilizer (Yousafzai et al., 2016). The source of the production of compost
and organic fertilizer which contributes much to the economy of Pakistan is livestock. It plays a crucial role to
support family income and jobs for the landless, smallholders and women in rural communities. It has been
estimated that 30-35 million rural populations of Pakistan is getting 30-40% of their income through
livestock directly or indirectly (Government of Pakistan [GOP], 2007a). Organic food fulfills the human
nutritional vitamins, minerals, enzymes and micronutrients. Pakistan has to produce extra food grains to
meet the dietary needs of the increasing population which is currently over 191.71 million (Pakistan
Economic Survey, 2014-15). Overall dietary needs of the population have reached to twenty million tons
wheat (Alam, 2003). It has been reported that harmful pesticides spray applied by the farming community
contaminated nearly 10-15 percent of stored food during storage (Ali et al., 2011). Moreover, the researchers
face the challenges of post-harvest losses. During sixties, Green Revolution was introduced in developing
Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 20-29
countries through the use of chemical inputs and high yielding crop seeds. This increased food production but
caused health and environmental risks (Ahmed et al., 2002).The similar scenario was witnessed in the entire
world where gains were achieved putting life into risks, so an urgent response was needed to combat the
alarming situation (Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], 2012).
Conventional agriculture produces about one third of global greenhouse gases by the use of chemical
inputs, machinery and livestock (FAO, 2011a). It results in wind and water erosion from soil surface, loss of
soil fertility, water holding capacity and desertification due to overgrazing especially in Africa and northern
meadows in Pakistan (FAO, 2011b). Moreover, pesticides and herbicides are accumulated in groundwater
below the agricultural lands. Other pest and disease problems include more than four hundred pests and
seventy dangerous pathogens have become resistant to one or more pesticides (Labelling Ecology Approved
Fabrics [LEAF], 2010). Salinity and sodicity affected nearly 6.28 million hectares land in Pakistan and caused
potential yield reduction. Soil degradation through natural hazards has also damaged the soil. The maximum
erosion rate estimated was 150-165 tones/hectare/year (Bhutta, 2010).
Organic farming is the solution to recover the soil made of salt intake by local natural organic matter as a
ground cover with compost and organic fertilizer (Baldwin, 2006). The source of the production of compost
and organic fertilizer which contributes much to the economy of Pakistan is livestock (Chaudhry et al., 1999).
It is estimated that 30-35 million rural populations of Pakistan is getting 30-40 percent of their income
through livestock directly or indirectly (GOP, 2006). The fertilizer gap can be filled by organic farming with
the addition of bio-fertilizers, vermin-composting, composting as well as crop rotation of cover and
leguminous crops (Ali et al., 2015).
During the last few years, the horrific events such as climate change, natural disasters, land degradation,
pollution of the environment and decline of biodiversity posed a threat to food security and nutrition in the
world and created a state of development challenges related to the environment, socio-economic and security
(United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction [UNISDR], 2012). The safe food production
threatens the most vulnerable people of the world, and high food prices have reversed the achievements in
decreasing hunger as well as poverty. A serious and united response is needed among different people of the
world to combat the problem of safe food production (FAO, 2008). Narayanan (2005) reported that
conventional agriculture is unsustainable due to reduction of crop production, damage of environment and
contamination caused by chemicals. An alternative method of crop production has emerged in the form of
organic farming that produces good quality foods by using ecological phenomenon. Willer and Kilcher (2011)
were in argument that organic farming can be performed by composting, cover cropping, intercropping,
green manuring, farm yard manuring, effective microorganisms technology, mulching, and use of humic acids.
Organic farming helps the communities to take interest in community development and safe environment
(Wyatt, 2010).
Organic farming is a method which deals with the growing of plants and rearing of livestock in a natural
way. This method involves the use of local biological material by avoiding chemical substances to maintain
and enhance soil fertility and environmental balance by minimizing the pollution and wastage of resources. It
involves the nature friendly agricultural principles like green manure, organic waste, integrated pest
management (IPM) and crop rotation. In organic farming, little use of pesticides as well as fertilizers becomes
possible only if these are natural and do not give any harm to the environment (Kesavan & Swaminathan,
When organic wastes (plant debris, farm yard manure, grass clipping, decomposed leaves etc) is compiled,
the decomposition process starts. The microorganisms begin to decompose the organic materials and the
temperature inside the pile rises up to 54-65
C within three to four weeks of decomposing. It is very
important to maintain the adequate aeration and moisture during the microbial activity that produces the
compost in the shortest period of time. When the organic matter is completely decomposed and the
temperature decreases to about 37 °C, then the compost is ready for use. On-farm compositing method
includes piles, pit compositing and vessel compositing (Morgera et al., 2012).
Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 20-29
Prospects of eco-friendly agriculture in Pakistan
1. Pakistan and organic agriculture
The current agriculture system is an essential component of Pakistan’s economy and it accounts 21% share to
gross domestic product. It acts as a source of employment as human labor for more than 45% people of
Pakistan, while 60% of rural population is directly involved in this sector for its livelihoods (GOP, 2007b).
Pakistan has a great potential for organic farming as the most of the farming community is interested in
adapting organic farming technologies for their sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity in addition to
reducing their farm expenses (Husnain & Khan, 2015). There is a need of awareness among the people of
Pakistan about the benefits of organic farming. Eco-farming is being practiced in Pakistan at about six million
hectares of the cultivable land is arid and rainfed regions (Baig et al., 2013). The soils in Baluchistan, Azad
Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and northern areas of Punjab are
available for organic farming where organic fertilizers and natural pest control with favorable climatic
conditions are only tools for the farming community (Rasul & Hussain, 2015). During 2008, National Institute
of Organic Agriculture (NIOA) was established at National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad. This
institute is involved in working on organic farming techniques and disseminating new knowledge to the
smallholders across the country (Musa et al., 2015).
Unfortunately, there is lack of inspection and certification system of organic products due to which their
export is limiting to a great extent. The agriculture income is decreasing due to poor price policies of the
government related to markets of agriculture products. Therefore, it is crucial to transfer the latest
technologies of organic agriculture to the farming communities and to allow the rural women to participate in
organic production. Easy loans and regular trainings should be arranged for these women to improve the
organic production. The sustainable agriculture develops the farmer capacity especially stallholder and farm-
home women to achieve the goal of their own resources like water, soil, meadows and forests. It also creates
the farmers capacity to use their own local natural resources for the growth of their living standards which
ultimately contribute in economic growth of the country (FAO, 2014).
The smallholder eco-friendly agriculture is the key to open the window towards sustainable future by
saving the millions of souls from hunger and malnutrition (Serageldin & Steeds, 1997). There is an alternate
option in the shape of home gardening trainings, bio-control of harmful insects/pests, Farmer Field Schools
(FFS), nursery raising, seed bank, strategies of rain harvesting, conservation of land and water, and provision
of poultry and livestock to the needy peasants. The Pakistani farm-home women play a great role in
agricultural development and livestock management. The women farmers produce 80% of food and have a
close relationship with land and food production of Pakistan (FAO, 2011d).
2. Plant protection and low yield
Although the gap between extension and research is very broad but it can be filled with mass education. In
Pakistani rural society, the small medium farmers comprise 93% of the whole farming community, of which
81% cultivate less than 12.5 acres of land (World Bank, 2007). This majority of smallholders always face
problems in seeking the field solutions from agricultural extension workers. Research and extension are the
two basic elements of agricultural development. At present, the linkage between these two components is
very weak. This gap can be filled with adequate funds, proper capacity building trainings, coordination
between research, extension and the farming community. Research organizations should establish outreach
components to design and evaluate appropriate extension methodologies by using information and
communication technology (Rwelamira, 2015). The average of major crops production in Pakistan is around
50-83% which is less than that of the developed countries (Iqbal & Ahmed, 2005). The realization of this
potential could offer unfinished tremendous opportunity for the future growth of agriculture. The
introduction of valuable crops such as saffron, herbs, mushrooms and dried fruits in specific areas can bring a