IT is one of the world's fastest growing agro-businesses that developed from zero in 1990 to a US$55 billion industry in 2009.
It has the potential of cutting by half Zimbabwe's fertiliser use and energy bill. It can also completely eliminate the country's use of agro-chemicals many of which are currently being blamed for global warming through their green house effect on climatic conditions.
While organic farming is as lucrative and attractive as it gets to any economy anchored on agriculture, Zimbabwe seems to be the least interested in the technology being driven by new global demands for foods free from manufactured chemicals as major food consumers of the developed world increasingly shy away from genetically modified foods (GMOs).
"The problem is that there is an information gap. People don't have the correct information," said Fortunate Nyakanda, the Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association director.
"If people have the correct information and extension services support then organic farming would grow in the country," added Nyakanda whose organisation is currently working with a mere 37 farmers groups, 32 of which are in Mashonaland East province.
Largely relying on crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control, organic farming is a growing worldwide movement that has, for instance, seen organic food and beverages growth in the United States rise from US$1 billion in the early 1990s to US$26,7 billion in 2010 according to the Organic Trade Association's 2011 Organic Industry Survey.
The World Organic Agriculture, which monitors and documents developments in global organic agriculture, also says global organic sales reached US$54,9 billion in 2009, a 7,3 percent increase on the 2008 figure of US$50,9 billion.
Driving this industry are declining global food supplies, climate change and rising agricultural input costs.
"Industrial agriculture is a root cause of lack of food availability due to its reliance on foreign aid, external agricultural inputs and food imports that require a cash economy," the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements asserts, adding: "Industrial agricultural is not about feeding the world but maximising profits by producing commodities for whichever global market pays the most. This is the reason why one billion people in the developing world are chronically hungry and why over a billion people in developed countries are obese and suffering from diet-related diseases."
Zimbabweans are among the world's one billion hungry people and this year 1,7 million people need food assistance after the country experienced a severe mid-season dry spell that affected more than a third of the nation's stable maize crop.
Although the country has been experiencing poor harvests since 2000 largely due to incessant droughts and a chaotic land reform programme, poor input supplies of especially artificial fertilisers has also greatly affected yields in small holder farming communities who have been failing to raise enough capital for inputs owing to the country's illiquidity. Given Zimbabwe's precarious position summed up by a poorly performing economy sinking under a US$10 billion foreign debt and high food import bill, organic agriculture offers an enticing escape route.
The growing demand for organic foods in Europe and North America could partly help to quickly heal the country's damaged economic spine of agriculture especially given the fact that the frosty relations between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) are thawing.
"The EU is Zimbabwe's second largest trading partner and trade figures have doubled since 2009," the head of EU Delegation in Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Aricia said recently addressing the country's captains of industry.
"In 2011, the total trade figures with Zimbabwe amounted to €675 million, around US$870 million, with a positive trade balance of €212 million, around US$276 million, in favour of Zimbabwe. In 2011, Zimbabwe exported to the EU €444 million, around US$577 million, and imported from the EU goods for a total value of €232 million, around US$301 million.
"The figures show an increase of 46 percent of Zimbabwe's exports to the EU and an increase of 20,38 percent of Zimbabwe imports from the EU. The total trade increased around 36 percent from 2010 to 2011. This shows a recovery trend initiated in 2010 and the normalisation of trading relations after the hyperinflation period," said Dell'Aricia.
Through economic partnership agreements (EPAs), the EU has also introduced a duty free quota free (DFQF) of all goods to the EU market, tariffs that will gradually be eliminated over the next 15 years, a period long enough for Zimbabwe to stand on its own feet particularly since the country is one of Africa's most promising emerging economies.
"As EU is a traditional importer of minerals, agricultural products and other raw materials that are produced by Zimbabwe, EPAs will stimulate the exports increasing by the making use DFQF access to the EU that remains Zimbabwe's major trading partner," said the EU head of delegation.
Major organic markets included Germany, France, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.
Leading organic farming countries include Australia, Germany, Argentina, China, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and the United Kingdom.
According to the web-based research engine, Wikipedia, organic crops yielded much better than conventional crops and withstand severe weather conditions than conventional crops.
"Contrary to widespread belief, organic farming can build up soil organic matter better than conventional no-till farming, which suggests long-term yield benefits from organic farming," writes Wikipedia adding: "The decreased cost of synthetic fertiliser and pesticide inputs, along with the higher prices that consumers pay for organic produce, contribute to increased profits. Organic farms have been consistently found to be as or more profitable than conventional farms."
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long-term and that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used while soil fertility and drought resistance improved.