NOGAMU took the initiative in 2002 to develop a standard for organic production ¬¬--the Uganda Organic Standard (UOS). The Standards Committee consisted of representatives from NOGAMU, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF), among others.
The process of drafting the UOS involved the preparation and distribution of three drafts for written and oral comment. A major stakeholder meeting was held in Kampala on 16 April, 2003, which involved around 100 participants, and NOGAMU also arranged a number of regional consultation meetings throughout the country. The standards were adopted in 2004. The process was supported by the SIDA-funded EPOPA programme, which also provided technical advice to the standards development.
At the end of 2003, EPOPA supported a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, on standards and certification of organic agriculture for East Africa. Almost 100 people, most of whom were from Uganda, Tanzania, or Kenya, met for three days to present the situation in the different countries and to discuss the way forward. One of the outcomes was a decision to cooperate on standards and certification for East Africa. One common regional standard, a logo that could state national identity in the text, and one regional certification structure were seen as the goals. At the Arusha meeting it also was evident that in Uganda and Tanzania certification bodies (UgoCert and Tancert) were being formed, and that the stakeholders in the respective countries promoted and supported this development. At a follow-up meeting in Nairobi in March 2004, forms of collaboration were discussed and the harmonization of the certification standards was seen as the starting point.
In October 2005 a Regional Standards Technical Working Group was established to develop a regional standard for East Africa3. With support and technical assistance from the UNEP/ UNCTAD CBTF4 project and IFOAM, the regional standards were developed during 2006 and a final proposal was submitted to the East African Community in January 2007, for formal adoption as an East African Standard. The development of the standards has been truly participatory and has involved good cooperation between the private sector and governmental institutions, in particular the National Bureaus of Standard and the Ministries of Agriculture.
One major advantage of a regional standard is that it will facilitate regional trade, as there will be no technical barriers, and it is in line with the recently formed East African Customs Union. Another advantage is that rather than having to seek acceptance for each individual national standard, countries can work together to have a regional standard accepted by the international export markets. Inspection, training materials, and information efforts can be shared more easily if based on the same standards.
The East African Organic Standard refers only to production and does not contain requirements for certification. The vision is that it can be used by producers who are part of different quality assurance programs, including third-party certification and participatory guarantee systems. The authority to further regulate the sector rests with the national governments, and there is currently no demand from the sector that any mandatory organic regulation should be implemented.
Almost all certified organic production in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda is certified according to EU regulation 2092/91. Increasingly, as producers target more distant markets, production is also certified according to the US National Organic Program (NOP) or the Japan Agriculture Standards (JAS). It is quite apparent that the direct use of these standards in East Africa creates problems. For example, the NOP has such stringent requirements for composting that even US farmers have problems following them, while the EU requirement that organic seeds be used conflicts with the reality that there is almost no organic seed available in East Africa. It is therefore quite natural that stakeholders are looking for an organic standard that is better adapted to their situation. At the same time few stakeholders understand export market regulations enough to grasp properly the limited potential of national or regional standards for international trade.
Organic certification by European certification bodies has taken place in Uganda since 1993. IMO and KRAV have dominated the certification scene; others are EcoCert, Ceres, Soil Association, and SKAL. Currently IMO certifies the vast majority of production, and a few projects are certified by EcoCert. In 1994, a few local inspectors were trained by KRAV, but much of the inspection work so far has been done by foreigners. IMO has an expatriate inspector based in Uganda, and since 2004 has worked in close cooperation with UgoCert for its inspections.
Parallel to development of the UOS there also was a process to develop a local certification body. NOGAMU, supported by the EPOPA program, pioneered in this. EPOPA also conducted a number of inspection trainings to start to build capacity and later trained certification staff. UgoCert was formalized in early 2004 and is a limited company with stockholders from the organic sector. NOGAMU has the biggest share allocation. UgoCert has an office in Kampala and four staff members. UgoCert has not yet had any independent international recognition, but is aiming for IFOAM Accreditation in 2007. In the meantime, clients are offered internationally compatible certification through agreements with IMO and Ceres. No producers that are targeting the local markets have so far been certified by Ugocert.(Author: Moses Kiggundu Muwanga)
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
Further reading on Early Organic Sector Development In Uganda:
Case Study Overview
Organic Agricultural and Social Conditions
Organic Market Development
Organization and Structure
Supporting Structures and Lessons Learned
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