Organic Regional Agriculture saving the Nature in China, 2007-2009
The project ORGANIC sets up a transdisciplinary exchange network for organic agriculture and green food production between Austrian and Chinese agricultural scientists and practitioners. It includes a case study research in a Chinese village, which has started to produce green food. The scientists within this project follow the research question how to translate standards of organic agriculture into the Chinese reality considering the Chinese concept of green food production.
Organic agriculture today is a well defined and regulated production branch of agriculture in Europe (EU-VO 2092/91). It is based on a long tradition of trial-and-error processes and scientific research, it includes adaptive education and transdisciplinary exchange systems, subsidy measures and controlling and labelling authorities to make organic products reliable and identifiable for consumers. It is a systemic production method promoting the self-regulation forces of nature and operating without any agro-chemicals. This production system has a high soil conservation potential and aims at locally balanced nutrient budgets. Austria has a long tradition and a high know-how of organic agriculture in scientific concerns and in practice. Besides it is based on an institutional network of associations and includes a well-established knowledge exchange between scientists and organic farmers.
Within ORGANIC Chinese and Austrian scientists visit together two villages one in China and one in Austria and compare their agricultural situation. From the agricultural analysis of both cases in environmental and economic concerns conclusions are drawn for adapted environmental sound farming systems in China.
In China organic farming is still a marginal sector because agriculture is currently characterised by very limited land resources in proportion to the huge population. China...is now feeding 22 % of the world's population on about 1.3 billion hectare, which only accounts for 7 % of the world's cultivated land (Guo 2002). This means that food security is at its limits. Moreover agriculture is characterised by very small scale farming in concerns of farm sizes (in average less than 0.5 ha arable land/farm) and the still high share of farmers of about 50 % of the population. All these facts are reasons for further intensification and industrialisation of agriculture. On the other hand these tendencies in agriculture are responsible for exploitation and degradation of natural resources as soil and water and contribute to a massive reduction of bio-diversity and the "disappearance" of landscape. Facing these challenges China has started to introduce "Green Food Production" as an integrated farming system. However, China will have to make a decision between on the one hand maintaining just short-term food security in the first instance aiming at high land productivity with the price of environmental degradation or on the other hand promoting food safety including environmental safety aiming at long-term food security. Organic agricultural production systems can make a contribution to the latter.
The project ORGANIC sets up an exchange network for organic agriculture and green food production between Austrian and Chinese agricultural scientists and practitioners with the aim of compiling a catalogue for environmental sound agriculture in China with drawbacks for Austria. The Austrian partner introduces the conceptual framework of organic agriculture including international standards (IFOAM) putting emphasis on its resource saving potential mainly soil conservation and melioration, water saving potential, maintenance of bio-diversity and original eco-systems. The Chinese partner provides an overview over the Chinese Concept of Green Food Production. This theoretical exchange is realised by presentations and workshops applying different scientific and participatory methods. The theoretical part is accompanied by field visits of two selected villages, one in China operating Green Food Production and one in Austria, which follows a comprehensive approach of organic production and regional marketing.