Advancing organic agriculture research in Hungary

Introduction
Organic agriculture is a production system that works to sustain the sound state of soils and ecosystems and the health of human beings. It relies on natural processes to avoid the use of inputs with adverse impacts. Current organic agriculture combines tradition with science and innovation to support an environmentally sound agricultural sector that takes both social and economic aspects into consideration and fosters a healthy lifestyle for all involved (IFOAM).

Organic agriculture is one of the world’s most dynamically developing agricultural systems. In the European Union the area of organic farming has grown from 125 thousand hectares to 9.5 million within the last 28 years and the number of organic farms increased from 8 thousand to 240 thousand. Around 5.5 percent of the EU’s total agricultural area is utilized for organic farming (FiBL/IFOAM 2013). In Hungary, almost 2000 enterprises produce food certified by the organic controlling system on approximately 135 thousand hectares of land. With increasing environmental, social and economic challenges facing humankind on a global scale, the research and development of organic agriculture and food production has become an increasingly important field of scientific endeavour.

For Hungary, organic farming is one of the greatest opportunities to renew its agricultural sector and ensure long-term sustainability. Organic farming has developed fast in Hungary due to its early adoption in the 1980s. However, advancement stagnated since the turn of the century. Enhancement of scientific research, professional consultancy, and strategic market development is of key importance for promoting the dynamics of Hungarian organic agriculture.

Objectives
The strategic goal of ÖMKi is to foster scientific research of an international standard in the field of organic agriculture and food production in Hungary. In cooperation with many actors of the Hungarian organic movement we implement research and development projects that – through their practical application – enable us to create an efficient system for scientific research and extension services.
Specifically, our aims are:
– To enhance research and development in Hungarian organic agriculture
– To improve the consultancy network for organic agriculture
– To enhance Hungarian organic farmers’ cooperation and advocacy skills
– To increase the number of organic farmers in Hungary
– To increase the area cultivated by organic farming in Hungary
– To exploit the potential of organic farming in Hungarian rural development
– To harness the landscape and nature protection opportunities of organic farming
– To assert the beneficial effects of organic farming on human health
– To broaden the market for Hungarian organic production
– Consumer protection, raising awareness and providing authentic information

Our activities are supported by the exemplary scientific background of the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), the founder of ÖMKi. We are thankful for the financial support of Pancivis Foundation.

Activities
PhD and Postdoc scholarship program
Within the framework of our PhD and Postdoctoral scholarship programme we support research capacity building in Hungarian research institutes and universities by providing funding for the engagement of young scientists in organic agriculture related research. In 2013 eighteen research proposals have already been supported.

On-farm research network
The on-farm research network includes a variety of field trials implemented in a participatory manor on Hungarian organic farms. Experiments under real-life conditions are carried out within the original production goals set by the farmers. We test how types, varieties, preparations, methods, and seed mixes perform under the diversity of everyday life practice. Participating farmers gain feedback directly from their own production experiences, land, and technology. At the same time, the results give a broader picture of Hungarian organic production practices and applicable solutions. Results from all tests are published online with open access.

Professional events
We believe cooperation and shared information is necessary for the successful development of Hungarian organic agriculture. Therefore, we regularly organize conferences and workshops on current issues of the sector and to share the results of our research. We pass on results of trials and provide professional development for consultants through accredited trainings. Further, we work to educate an increasing segment of society with organic agriculture so they can build an authentic image of organic products.

Partner institute: FiBL Switzerland
The Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) was founded in 1973 and currently employs around 130 staff. FiBL’s expertise includes sustainable soil management, crop production, holistic animal health, animal ethology and animal husbandry appropriate to local conditions, socioeconomics, analysis of the organic market and organic food processing. Many of FiBL’s projects and surveys take place on more than 200 farms throughout Switzerland. The close links between the different areas of research and the extensive exchange of knowledge between research and practice are regarded as strengths of FiBL.

FiBL is also committed to the development of organic agriculture internationally. The development of ecological research services as well as advisory and certification services is being addressed through numerous projects and partnerships in Eastern Europe, India, Latin America and Africa.

Funding
Pancivis Foundation