SPI of the month: Organic farming & collective water management in the Region of Valencia

4. September 2023

The SPI process organised by the UPV team pursues an outstanding and timely aim: to promote the expansion of organic farming in irrigated districts within the Region of Valencia, where intensive fruit and vegetable production predominates. The adoption of organic farming is constrained by collective water management practices, as water is supplied to individual farmers together with conventional (chemical) fertilisers (centralised fertirrigation), since this significantly reduces the cost of fertilisation. However, this prevents farmers from complying with organic regulations. Besides this barrier, the structural characteristics of farms (small-scale, dispersed plots) further complicate the adoption of organic production. The certified area of plots is reduced when neighbouring farms continue using conventional chemical inputs (resulting in the ‘drift effect’).

These problems suggest that a spatially coordinated adoption of organic farming would contribute to increasing notably the area and number of organic producers. To address these barriers effectively, the SPI brings together representatives of the governing bodies of irrigation districts, organic farmers, technicians and representatives of the public certification agency, staff from the regional agricultural administration (with responsibilities in organic production incentives and irrigation infrastructures) and environmental organizations.

Together, these participants will explore options to overcome the constraints through the implementation of the VISIONAY project. Some proposed solutions include establishing separate connections and networks financed by the users; the establishment of different irrigation turns alternating fertilized water and “clean” (not fertilized) water; or the introduction of organic fertilizers in the common networks replacing the non-organic formulas. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these options may lead to an uneven distribution of burdens, risks, and benefits between organic farmers and irrigation communities.

Whichever solution is pursued, it would require a multifaceted approach, including innovative collective agreements for water management, reorganizing organic plots spatially, exploring modalities for collective adoption and, most importantly, implementing an enabling policy mix of incentives, guidance, and long-term planning. By addressing these challenges collaboratively, the SPI process aims to significantly increase the area and number of organic producers in the region.

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