The agricultural sector in India employs 60% of the nation’s working force but stagnating yields and prevalent farmers’ suicide rates are threatening the development of the sector. Policies that promote intensive farming have led farmers into high debts through the continuous purchasing of external inputs that have become crucial for their farming systems to function. Karnataka state holds one of the highest rates of farmer suicides amongst all the states in India. The Karnataka state Policy of Organic Farming (KSPoOF) encourages organic farming in order to reduce external input which can reduce the cost burden for farmers, enhance soil fertility which can increase the production and ultimately increase the sustainability of the agricultural sector.
The aim of this research is to quantitatively analyze the ecological impacts of conversion to organic farming, using agro-ecological indicators, within five taluks in Karnataka state, India. Through literature reviews three agro-ecological indicators were chosen and operationalized through a set of explanatory variables as to represent the state of soil quality, water quality and agrobiodiveristy: (i) soil organic carbon, (ii) water electrical conductivity, and (iii) planned biota per ha. These indicators were compared in three situations to measure and analyze the impact of implementing KSPoOF production schemes. The three situations are: (i) farms before the policy in 2006; (ii) farms in policy villages in 2009 (2009_P); (iii) farms neighboring to the ones with 2009_P, where the policy was not launched yet (2009_N). In addition, the differences in farming practices among the three above-mentioned situations are also analyzed. Finally, analysis led towards linking the differences of farming practices to agro-ecological indicators.
The results showed that the conversion of five sampled taluks (in different agro-ecological zones in the state) took place in varied pace and with a varied extent. Other agricultural schemes and mindsets of market orientation are considered to be more dominant than KSPoOF, therefore the adoption of organic farming principles as promoted by KSPoOF has reduced. Bijapur_Bijapur (B_B) and Mysore_HD Kote (M_HK) had 100% organic fertilizer usage in 2009_P which meets one of the standards of organic farming, but in Kolar_Gowribdibnur (K_G) hardly any conversion had taken place. The policy was found to positively influence the soil organic carbon content in M_HK. The increment of SOC content was observed in three taluks and the phenomenon was mainly caused by the abundantly available micronutrients in organic fertilizers in B_B and M_HK. However, in K_G, higher percentage of maize cultivation is assumed to provide good sources as green manure. For the analysis of agrobiodiversity, the analysis is influenced greatly by the land holding size of farmers’, therefore the influence of the policy can not be concluded. It would help to have more data about types and numbers of species in the agricultural landscapes. Water quality seems not significantly being influenced by the policy in general. However, the opposite effect of policy was observed as significantly higher water electrical conductivity appeared in Udupi_Udupi in 2009_P compared to 2009_N. The result indicated that organic farming should be tailored designed according to local situation to really receive the benefit as expected.
This report presented the state of conversion to organic farming in 5 taluks in Karnataka state and the agro-ecological impacts due to the conversion. Besides, my experiences of being an intern in NGO, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) conducting this research are described in my internship report which is attached as Appendix VI within this report.
 A taluk equals to a sub-district comprising several villages or village clusters.