- IFOAM Southern African Network (ISAN) to be Established
- Organic Farmers’ Market Takes off in Lomé (Togo)
- Perseverance Pays off for the Organic Movement in Zimbabwe
- Benin to Host Third West African Organic Conference
- Support the Campaign Against Genetically Modified Cotton in Malawi
1. IFOAM Southern African Network (ISAN) to be Established
Organic Stakeholders in Southern Africa are currently busy with the setting up of a IFOAM Self-Organized Structure called ISAN – IFOAM Southern African Network. Formally known as SANOD - Southern African Network for Organic Development – ISAN is a regional network of national organic movements (NOAMs), organic agriculture training and research institutions, and, organizations working in the field of agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture. It was formed by a representative group of member organizations during the Second African Organic Conference held in Lusaka, Zambia in 2012. There is a long-standing relationship amongst the founding member organizations, dating as far back as 2008, where the groundwork for regional advocacy strategies was laid during an IFOAM Advocacy Capacity Building Workshop organized in Nigeria in conjunction with the West African Organic Summit.
The aims of ISAN are to establish itself as a strong regional voice for organic agriculture in Southern Africa, and to develop a common advocacy strategy for the region. These priorities are clearly in line with IFOAM goals and most of the organizations that are part of ISAN are members of IFOAM and their representatives actively participate in the activities of the federation, through project activities, as volunteers in advisory committees, and in the democratically elected IFOAM World Board.
IFOAM Self-Organized Structures (SoS) are organized by IFOAM affiliates as components of the broader IFOAM Action Group. Although IFOAM offers an international platform for its affiliates to discuss and promote the development of Organic Agriculture, IFOAM affiliates also benefit from establishing supplementary structures bringing together a certain subset/group of the IFOAM membership in order to discuss and promote issues relevant to the subset/group in greater detail. Hence, IFOAM affiliates are invited to organize themselves and establish IFOAM Regional Bodies such as ISAN operating under the IFOAM name. Since IFOAM recognizes the benefits of establishing IFOAM Regional Bodies and IFOAM Sector Platforms, these bodies operate with as much autonomy as possible based on special agreements and mutual understandings.
ISAN is looking forward to working with the African Organic Network (AfrONet), the umbrella movement for organic actors and promoters in Africa, to develop this vibrant sector even further for the benefit of all Africans. ISAN's steering committee comprises representatives from the various National Organic Sector Platforms: Manjo Smith (NOA - Namibian Organic Association) Munshimbwe Chitalu (OPPAZ - Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia), Fortunate Hofisi Nyakanda (ZOPPA - Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association), Stanley Chidaya (MOGA - Malawi Organic Growers Association) and Paul Whittaker (SAOSO - South African Organic Sector Organization). For more information about ISAN, please contact Manjo Smith, Chairperson, +264 811295575, info [at] noa [dot] org [dot] na.
2. Organic Farmers’ Market Takes off in Lomé (Togo)
Generally speaking, market access is one of the greatest challenges agricultural producers face. The lack of or a poor marketing outlet can drastically reduce farmers’ production output. Thus, development of market outlets for organic agriculture produce is a vital aspect of organic agriculture development anywhere in the world.
Togo is one of the countries of Africa in which Organic Agriculture is at its nascent stage. The Cultural Center Mytro Nunya, the restaurant de Rue de Vin and CFAPE-TOGO (Centre de Formation Agricole et de Production Écologique du Togo) launched their first Organic Farmers’ Market on May 7, 2014. At the market launch, nine companies offered their produce to more than 365 consumers, including Togolese and international workers in Lomé.
The market operates every first Saturday of the month and serves as a formal outlet for produce of organic farmers’ groups in Lomé. Fruits and vegetables are currently the main produce available at this market outlet. It is envisaged that the launch of this organic market will stimulate the development of similar organic market outlets in Togo.
For more information in French, please visit http://www.agroecologietogo.org and http://cfape-togo.jimdo.com.
3. Perseverance Pays off for the Organic Movement in Zimbabwe
Who would have thought that Organic Agriculture, once looked upon as impractical and notional by many in Zimbabwe, would evolve into a viable business opportunity providing a regular income for local smallholder farmers, and, healthy nutritious food for the nation? The Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association (ZOPPA) did, and despite significant resistance, fought long and hard for the development of their organic sector. Now, more than 3,600 smallholder organic farmers are certified to the Zimbabwe Organic Standards and the standard has also been accepted into the IFOAM Family of Standards. But the journey for ZOPPA, a long-term IFOAM member, was far from over. Farmers could achieve organic certification but had little or no access to potential customers and many customers were unaware of the benefits of organic. ZOPPA rose to this challenge and made a deal with a chain of supermarkets enabling farmers to sell directly to them. They also trained supermarket staff on the differences between organic and non-organic produce enabling them to advise customers accordingly. To find out more about how smallholder farmers, consumers, and the entire organic sector is profiting from this, please click here.
4. Benin to Host Third West African Organic Conference
From August 27 to 29 2014, the Benin Organic Agriculture Network (BOAN) is organizing the Third West African Organic Conference “Institutionalizing Ecological and Organic Agriculture in West Africa” in Cotonou (Benin) in collaboration with local and international stakeholders and under the auspices of IFOAM. The conference is expected to bring together more than 150 participants, including representatives from farmers’ organizations, governments, inter-governmental institutions, national and international NGOs, private sector, UN agencies, universities, research institutions, and donor community, to share experiences, mobilize support for ecological organic agriculture in West Africa, and to take the actions necessary to bring the organic agenda to new heights in the region.
There is still the possibility to support the Third West African Organic Conference from technical and financial perspectives. For more information, please contact the Organizing Committee (infoboanbenin [at] gmail [dot] com).
5. Support the Campaign Against Genetically Modified Cotton in Malawi
On 22 May 2014, Monsanto Malawi (Pty) Ltd placed a public notice in both the Daily Times and Nation newspapers announcing its intention to apply to the Malawi Biosafety Registrar for a permit for a general release of genetically modified (GM) cotton engineered to be pest resistant (MON15985, commonly known as Bollgard II). Monsato’s application has drawn a number of grass-roots reactions from stakeholders in Malawi that expressed their worries about the possible negative health, social and ecological impacts of GMOs. As a result, an alliance of 19 civil society organizations and an organic vegetable farmers group led by the Commons for EcoJustice (EcoJustice) and representing Malawian small-scale farmers, faith-based organizations, organic movements, non-governmental organizations and the media, among others, have lodged a substantive submission to the Malawian authorities, vehemently opposing Monsanto’s application to obtain a general release permit for its genetically modified cotton.
We call upon all organic stakeholders and development partners to financially and technically support the Malawian civil society’s opposition to GM cotton. From an IFOAM perspective, this is not the time to look for short-term solutions for the agricultural situation in Malawi. Investment in real sustainable solutions that benefit people and the environment is urgently required in the country as well as other parts of the Continent.
Indeed, research studies have shown that genetically-modified foods have negative impacts on ordinary farmers and local communities. In South Africa for example, the government launched in partnership with Monsanto a Massive Food Production Program (MFPP) to “unlock the agricultural potential in underdeveloped areas”. Participants in the MFPP were given credit to purchase fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. According to Grain, the MFPP has been singularly unsuccessful in relieving poverty or integrating farmers in the market. It has, however, had a series of other long-term consequences such as destruction of agro-biodiversity and knowledge, creating a market for GMOs, reduction in nutritional value and productivity, poisoning of soils, the disempowerment of local farmers. In Burkina Faso, according to SEDELAN, the introduction of the genetically modified “Bt cotton” has plunged thousands of farmers into debt, highly degraded soil quality, and contaminated a variety of African traditional cotton. Malawi may experience similar or worse problems, with the Monsanto promoted MON15985.
For further information about the civil society coalition against the general release of genetically modified cotton in Malawi, please contact: Bright M. Phiri (bmphiri [at] live [dot] com).