Expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will be good for the continent’s nutritional needs, good for the environment, good for farmers’ incomes, and good for African markets and employment, UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General said at a conference here today.
The 2nd African Organic Conference, which runs from 2 to 4 May, has the theme of “Mainstreaming organic agriculture into the African development agenda.”
UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Petko Draganov told the opening session, “Organic agriculture can offer an impressive array of food security, economic, environmental, and health benefits for developing countries, including in Africa.”
Mr. Draganov said UNCTAD strongly supports the growing use of organic farming practices on the continent – Africa already has more certified organic farms than any other continent – and noted that this form of agriculture comprehensively illustrates the central topic of UNCTAD’s just concluded quadrennial conference in Doha, Qatar: “Development-centred globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development.”
“The conference emphasized the importance of food security, sustainable agriculture, and a transition towards a ‘green’ economy,” Mr. Draganov said.“Clearly the subject of this meeting – organic agriculture – can have an important role in achieving sustainable and inclusive development.”
The three-day Lusaka meeting is jointly organized by UNCTAD, the African Union, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) and Grow Organic Africa. The conference has among its objectives the development of an African Organic Action Plan intended to spur expansion of the organic farming sector, streamline certification and “organic equivalency” systems that allow more vigorous trade in organic goods, and add to the continent’s markets for organic produce.
It has been clear for some years that organic farming “fits” Africa. Organic agriculture does not use artificial fertilizers and other chemicals, which are expensive for the continent’s farmers, as 90 per cent of these inputs are imported. It preserves and enhances the soil in a region where land degradation and expanding deserts are a serious concern. It relies primarily on locally available renewable resources, which shields farmers from price shocks associated with external farming inputs; it frequently increases farm yields by 100 per cent or more; and it brings higher prices to farmers, since organic produce sells at a premium. In addition, it helps create jobs in rural regions – as organic inputs are usually produced locally – and helps to stem the tide of migrants from rural areas to African cities.
Mr. Draganov told the meeting that UNCTAD’s forthcoming Trade and Environment Review 2012 “will highlight the need for policy-makers to be aware of the potential of organic agriculture, and identify the measures and policies needed to support its wider application. We should all work together to increase awareness about organic agriculture and develop supportive policies and programmes to help it spread.”
UNCTAD has worked with IFOAM, FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the past 10 years on reducing technical barriers to trade in organic produce by facilitating harmonization and mutual recognition of organic standards, the Deputy Secretary-General noted. Among the fruits of this collaboration is the East African Organic Products Standard launched in 2007.
For more information on the conference please see www.africanorganicconference.com