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Zimbabwe: Organic farming critical for development

ZIMVEST, a collection of news excerpts from the web related to Zimbabwe, reports about recent developments of the organic sector in the country.

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Zimbabwe and most other African countries should develop national organic agriculture policies targeted at high value markets in Europe and North America to help increase income, employment and improve the livelihoods of farmers, an official of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) said.

IFOAM Africa representative Moses Muwanga told participants at the just-ended Zimbabwe National Organic Standards stakeholders’ workshop that market-driven development of organic value chains agriculture is the basis for millions of livelihoods.

“Farmers need a livelihood and if they don’t have a market their livelihoods are affected,” he said.

“Governments, non-governmental organisations and national organic movements should facilitate the relations between farmers and the markets. In Zimbabwe and most other African countries it is easier to improve organic agriculture because there is a lot of cultural attachments to our traditional farming systems.”

The demand for organic products in high value food markets in Europe and North America was increasing at a rate of between 10 percent and 25 percent a year and was the fastest growing food market with increasing imports from developing countries.

The Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association Trust (ZOPPA Trust), the local organisation that brings together organic producers, promoters and processors organised the workshop to enable stakeholders to effectively and comprehensively review the draft Zimbabwe Organic Standards document.

ZOPPA together with the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) and stakeholder representatives drawn from private companies, NGOs, research institutions and Government departments have been working on the draft of organic standards that were compliant with the Zimbabwe and World Health Organisation food safety standards, IFOAM and other international organic standards.

The Zimbabwe Organic Standards would be used for standardisation of organic production in Zimbabwe, development of the local organic niche market while preparing producers for the export market.

“There are huge export market opportunities for our organic farmers once we finalise the Zimbabwe Standards which will act as a benchmark for quality compliance,” said Fortunate Nyakanda, the Zoppa director.

“Organic agriculture is growing in Zimbabwe. The number of certified organic farmers has increased significantly from 12 in 2002 to over 800 in 2010.”

Muwanga who is also the chief executive of the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU) gave the most detailed presentation that provided useful insights and valuable information for the Zimbabwe Organic Standards development process.

He said the organic market was one of the fastest growing market segments globally. The organic market is growing at an average of 15 percent in Europe and 20 percent in the US. Global development of organic agriculture has been partially driven through trade.

The world market for organic products is now estimated to be above US$65 billion. Organic agriculture also provides competitiveness of export products from the region to the international markets.

However, Muwanga expressed concern that Africa with 0,34 million hectares of certified organic agriculture, was still not benefiting from the international markets owing to certification constraints, poor infrastructure, lack of capital and weak production capacity.

African farmers, he said, needed to respond to market changes and improve the quality of their organic product to benefit from Western market.

The trading environment, Muwanga observed, was witnessing changes resulting from increased consumer concerns for the health and safety, increased consumer consciousness regarding the environment and social related issues of production and marketing.

Today, he said consumers especially in international markets increasingly prefer products grown with natural methods and with due respect to environmental and social dimensions.

As a result, he noted, demand and marketing in products such as organic products, fair-trade products, eco-friendly products is rising.

Muwanga also shared the Ugandan experience and said organic agriculture was among the fastest growing subsectors in this east African country. Uganda boasts of more than 200 000 certified organic farmers, 45 certified export companies and annual exports of US$30 million.

The market has grown as a result of unfolding market opportunities in Europe and locally, with a domestic market growing at an average rate of 50 percent a year.

An estimated 417 000 hectares are certified organic and managed by more than 400 000 farmers in Africa. The countries with the greatest organic areas are Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania and crops grown include olives, coffee, oil palm, cotton and cocoa. Much organic production is also taking place in the informal sector and without certification.

“Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from Uganda on organic agriculture,” said Rodger Mpande, the chairperson of the Technical Committee on the Zimbabwe Organic Standards.

“Since 2008 we have been working with Zoppa and the Standards Association of Zimbabwe to develop our own organic standards.

“It’s critical for us to have a benchmark to evaluate our organic standards.”

Once the draft is finalised, he said, the document will be circulated to all stakeholders for peer review.

“Once the draft is approved, it becomes a national requirement. This is critical especially now when a number of products are being sold on the local market with misleading organic labels which have not been verified.”

Key lessons for Zimbabwe from the Ugandan experience include the fact that it is possible to motivate farmers to produce more organic products due to attractive organic agriculture commodity prices, that government, NGOs and

Zoppa should facilitate the building of strong relations between farmers and the market.

Muwanga said promoting greater interaction between farmers and the private sector has led to the success of organic agriculture in Uganda.

Critical issues for further development of organic marketing in Uganda which Zimbabwe could learn from included:

lStrengthening the institutional capacity of the organic movements to lead and coordinate all actors along the value chains

lDirect interventions to bottlenecks of entire value chains (Value chain approach), with focus to both the export and local/regional markets

lStrategic focus on research into organic friendly technologies and solutions

lNeed for governments to develop policies that support organic production and trade.

“Mobilising farmers to take advantage of the organic markets in the West, developing long-term plans and instilling business ethics to organic farming among them is critical,” Muwanga said.

He said organic farmers were the most food secure and most motivated due to the better prices of they earn and also the stability of the market.

Agricultural experts say organic farming builds on principles for improving soil fertility through incorporation of legumes and compost, strengthening ecological support functions and using natural vegetation and crop diversity to prevent pest and diseases.

Using such agro-ecological practice, they said, helps farmers to intensify and increase production without necessarily depending on chemical pesticides and fertilisers which harmful to them and the environment.

Organic agriculture proponents argue strongly that the organic approach meets all three of the essential components of a sustainable world — social equity, economic reliability and environmental health.

Source: Organic farming critical for development By Sifelani Tsiko. ZIMVEST, November 10, 2010

Further information

Editor's note

For latest figures on organic farming in Africa see African section at this website.

Link

ZIMVEST.com: Organic farming critical for developmenthttp://zimvest.com/?p=23825

Africa at Organic-World.net

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