Long-term farming system comparisons in the tropics

Project completed

Agriculture based on high external inputs resulted in productivity increases but has high negative external costs. Alternative systems such as organic agriculture exist but information on their economic, environmental and social performance is scarce. This long-term system comparison led by the Swiss-based Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL) provides scientific evidence on the productivity and profitability of organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture in four production systems of the tropics.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural research
Agricultural development
01.12.2014 - 31.12.2018
CHF  2’000’000

The past efforts to maximise agricultural production by use of input intensive agricultural practices have proven detrimental to the health and sustainability of agro-ecosystems, despite higher yields in the short term. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that new practices and farming methods are developed and implemented, which ensure high productivity while being economically viable and environmentally sustainable. In addition, the diversity of agro-ecosystems as well as the differences in social and cultural habits around the world demand integrated site-specific solutions to help overcome the challenges of food security.


Enhance knowledge and knowhow about the sustainability of the different agricultural production systems in three tropical countries.

Target groups

Direct beneficiaries:
i) farmers involved in the Participatory On-farm Research (POR) and farmers trained in the context of the project
ii) university students, technicians, project coordinators and steering committee members attending trainings
iii) the national and international scientific community, who will be able to build on this newly generated evidence based knowledge.

Indirect beneficiaries: Other organic and conventional farmers who learn about the project results via extension.


Medium-term outcomes

(1) The dissemination of solid agronomic, economic and ecological data on major organic and conventional agricultural production systems in selected project regions, which will lead to an enhanced knowledge base that can be used by different stakeholders;

(2) The adoption of newly developed, locally-adapted technology innovations addressing organic farmers’ needs leads to improved yields and rural livelihoods in the mid- and long-term perspective.



Results from previous phases:  

- First results prove that organic agriculture tends to be more resilient to climatic or weather stress, whereas in optimal production conditions conventional agriculture has a productivity advantage.

- Economically organic agricultre seems to reach the same profitability as conventional agriculture due to the lower costs for external inputs.

- The high inter-seasonal variability of agricultural production do not yet allow for a fully conclusive evidence on the productivity and profitability of organic compared to conventional agriculture.

- In general, project management will have to give a stronger focus on analysing and publishing data.


Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Swiss Academic and Research Institution
  • Research Institute for Organic Agriculture

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    2’000’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    2’000’000 Total project since first phase Budget inclusive project partner CHF   6’000’000
Project phases Phase 4 01.12.2018 - 31.12.2022   (Current phase)

Phase 3 01.12.2014 - 31.12.2018   (Completed)

Phase 2 01.05.2011 - 31.12.2014   (Completed) Phase 1 01.05.2007 - 30.04.2011   (Completed)