The Second African Organic Conference is being held in Lusaka, Zambia from 2 to 4 May, with the theme of "mainstreaming organic agriculture into the African development agenda".
The 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.
More than 300 participants from 40 countries are in attendance. The conference aims to develop an African Organic Action Plan to spur expansion of the organic farming sector, streamline certification and organic equivalency systems, and expand the continent's market for organic produce.
Organic agriculture does not use artificial fertilizers or other chemicals, and preserves and enhances the soil – a fact of critical importance in Africa where land degradation and expanding deserts are of serious concern. Africa has more than one million hectares of arable land currently being used for organic farming, and 530,000 certified organic farmers. Ethiopia and Uganda each have more than 100,000 certified farms and Tanzania has about 85,000.
UNCTAD's Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Petko Draganov, participated in the opening session of the conference, together with the H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Chenda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, and representatives of IFOAM, the African Union and the FAO. The first President of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, a fervent supporter of organic agriculture, attended the session.
In his statement, Mr. Draganov said that UNCTAD strongly supported the growing use of organic farming practices on the African continent. UNCTAD has just concluded its quadrennial conference in Doha, with the theme of "development-centred globalization: towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development," Mr. Draganov reminded. Some key topics of discussion during the conference were the importance of food security, sustainable agriculture and the potential and need for transition towards a green economy, he said. Mr. Draganov informed the meeting that UNCTAD's forthcoming Trade and Environment Review 2012 would highlight the need for policy-makers to be aware of the potential of organic agriculture, and identify measures and policies needed to support its wider application.
At the session devoted to finding ways to fit organic agriculture into the development agenda, Mr. Taffere Tesfachew, Director of UNCTAD’s Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes division, stressed that organic agriculture needed to be mainstreamed into the current African development priorities. This must be done paying particular attention to the existing reality in terms of the capacity constraints and other challenges faced by the continent’s countries, he noted.
UNCTAD has worked with IFOAM, FAO and UNEP for the past ten years on reducing technical barriers to trade in organic produce by facilitating harmonization and mutual recognition of organic standards. This has resulted in the East African Organic Products Standard, launched in 2007. Some recent joint publications by UNCTAD and UNEP are Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa and Organic Agriculture: Opportunities for promoting trade, protecting the environment and reducing poverty.