Abstract for: Avoiding Worse-Before-Better Dynamics In Transitioning From Chemical To Organic Farming

Agriculture, and hence choices made by a farmer, has a significant impact on environ-mental sustainability. Presently, more than 98% of farmers in India follow conventional farming using chemical fertilizers, often to the detriment of the environment, yields, and personal health. They remain hesitant to adopt organic farming despite its promise of greater sustainability and profitability. Allegedly, their reluctance stems from the debilitating consequences of a “worse-before-better” (WBB) scenario, where agricultural yields—and therefore income—decline temporarily during the transition from conven-tional to organic farming. Already organic farmers, however, refute such a notion as a myth. In this context, our research investigates: under what conditions is the transition from conventional to organic farming most favorable to the farmer? We build a dynamic model of the transition from conventional to organic wheat farming system, derived from literature as well as interviews with wheat farmers in Haryana, India. Our analysis first reproduces the WBB dynamics. We then suggest how factors like cost of organic farming, time to revive soil health after over fertilization, and rate at which land is converted could be used to achieve the right balance of the duration of and the profits lost during the transition for a smallholder farmer.