The second draft of an East African Organic Standard will be presented to the public on 13 December in Nairobi at the first Organic Standards Forum to be organized in Africa. The Kenyan Agriculture Secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, will open the forum, which is part of a week-long series of events focusing on organic agriculture in East Africa. The standard is being developed by a public-private partnership made up of East African businesses, Government Bureaus, Organic Movements and Certification bodies, in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
It is expected that the standard, once finalized, will boost organic trade and market development in the region, define a common vision of organic agriculture in East Africa, raise awareness about organic produce among farmers and consumers, enable economies of scale in training materials and certification, and create a unified negotiating position that should help organic farmers win access to export markets. It is also expected to influence international organic standard setting processes.
“The East African Organic Standard will be a powerful tool to promote organic agriculture in the region and ultimately bring social, environmental and economic benefits to the people of East Africa,” said Gunnar Rundgren, IFOAM project leader.
The standard is being developed by a regional public-private sector working group whose members include representatives of the national bureaus of standards, national organic movements and organic certifying bodies of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, and the East African Business Council. There have been several rounds of national multi-stakeholder consultations, and field testing has been carried out. On 14-15 December, the Regional Standard Technical Working Group (RSTWG) will consider comments received on the second draft of the standard following wide circulation and consultation.
Innovative public-private work on the project is also taking place at regional and national levels among members of a self-proclaimed “East African Organic Team”, which is open to all who are interested in the sector’s development.
Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which enhances agro-ecosystem health, utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge. Organic Agricultural systems rely on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs.
East Africa currently leads the continent in exports of certified organic products. Organic produce generally sells at premium prices in overseas markets and wins higher profits for farmers. Domestic markets are also growing rapidly, in part through the efforts of the Kenyan Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), the Tanzanian Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) and the National Organic Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU). Recently governments in the region have been throwing their support behind efforts to expand the sector.
A UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development (CBTF)-IFOAM East Africa Organic Policy Workshop on 11 December provided a platform for dialogue among those developing policies to promote organic agriculture. Selected experts from other African countries and international organizations will share their experiences.
Inputs to the Policy Workshop include UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2006 and research carried out under the CBTF East Africa Organic Project, particularly a study on best practices for government organic policies and initial findings of integrated assessment projects in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These assessment projects analyze the environmental, social and economic impacts of different policy options.
The Standards Forum, Policy Workshop and RSTWG are part of a series of organic agriculture-related events organized by CBTF and IFOAM for 10-16 December at the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. Other events include meetings of the IFOAM Standards Committee, including a joint session with the RSTWG to discuss international private sector acceptance of the organic standard, and a meeting of the IFOAM Africa Advisory Group.
Work on the East African Organic Standard, or EAOS, has been made possible by financial support from the European Commission, the Swedish International Agency for Development Cooperation (Sida), and the Government of Norway.
The draft EAOS and other documents are available at the following websites:
The UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review may be freely downloaded at http://www.unctad.org/trade_env/documentsPUBLI.asp.
IFOAM is the international umbrella organization of organic agriculture movements worldwide.
IFOAM’s mission is leading, uniting and assisting the organic movement in its full diversity.
Our goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture.