|Supporting Structures and Lessons Learned for Organic In Sweden, Case Studies for Early Organic Agricultural Development in Sweden|
Organization and structure of the organic sector
From 1985 and during the next decade the ‘new’ Swedish organic movement organized itself on three ‘legs’: the ARF/Ecological Farmers Association, KRAV, and the market cooperatives, all with different roles and working closely in a network. ARF/EFA worked with e.g. agriculture policy, standards and certification development, competence building, consumer contact, and networking. KRAV’s role has been mainly standard development, certification, and consumer trust building. The market groups at first worked with sales of products but later all except Samodlarna focused on developing organic lines in the big food processing firms. From the beginning these organizations created a common ground for certification, agricultural policy, and marketing, and still are important stakeholders.
The organic advisors participated very actively in the early development activities, contributing with experience exchange and competence, and so did some individual scientists at the University of Agriculture. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, the biggest environmental organization, was an early promoter of organic and has worked closely with the organic movement for many years. Other important stakeholders were the retailers and an increasing number of processing companies, and lately the municipalities that go for
annex 2: caSe StudieS
organic in the public kitchens. In the mid 1990s, government institutions started to take a serious interest and get involved.
The Farmers’ Federation, LRF, which organizes most of the Swedish farmers, is an interesting stakeholder. LRF became one of the first members of KRAV, and in 1996 a formal and continuous dialogue between EFA and LRF started. These two events opened the door for acceptance and information exchange between organic and conventional farmers. Despite differences in views, LRF has participated in the whole development in a positive way, not least by recognizing the importance of certification. Today, several LRF board members are organic farmers and one staff person works half-time with organic.
A well-organized organic sector, common ground, and continuous discussion in relevant forums on the front issues have been and continues to be a great strength of the organic sector. As the sector grows it is not possible to keep all stakeholders together in one forum or organization, and a challenge is then to find new forms of communication. There are continuous bottlenecks to solve, and the best possibility to do this is through participation by those who are concerned.
Supporting structures: Research, education, extension
Good cooperation in education and exchange of experience between farmers and extension workers in the general extension system, e.g. courses, field days and group extension, has a long tradition in Swedish organic agriculture. Therefore the organic organizations did not build up advisory services of their own. Instead, extension for organic farmers developed within the existing extension organizations: the Agricultural Divisions of the County Administrative Boards (Länsstyrelsen) and the Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies (Hushållningssällskapen). In addition, several institutes and private organizations offer extension service, and the food cooperatives provide specialized advisory service for production of each commodity. The Biodynamic Association still has its own extension and training. Since 1995, a large part of the extension, training, education, information and demonstration projects have been financed through the Swedish environmental program. Extension within this program is offered free of charge. Regional programs are set up in all 23 counties with participation of the most important actors within the region.
Research in organic agriculture has been going on at the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) since the early 1980s, but other universities also have research relevant to organic agriculture. The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, CUL, was founded in 1997 as a focal point for cooperation between organic researchers and stakeholders, and to coordinate a research program for organic agriculture. The Biodynamic Research Institute Foundation (Stiftelsen Biodynamiska Forskningsinstitutet, SBFI) is an independent institute at Järna. The major part of organic research is financed by national earmarked money through the Swedish Council for Forestry and Agriculture Research. This funding has been of great importance for organic development, but is a controversial result of lobbying and not at all stable.
The organic organizations’ regular periodicals and newsletters with the latest information in their respective areas contribute a great deal to development of competence and improved organic practices.
The establishment of a relevant organization structure (ARF, KRAV, market cooperatives) where the organizations shared roles and responsibilities, was more efficient than having similar organizations competing with each other.
It was an important step to involve both market actors and the conventional farmers at an early stage of development.
Unification of the organic concept under one standard helped build trust in organic products and was one of the most important factors for market development.
Farmers have an outstanding ability to build trust as educators of consumers and should be an active part in information projects.
The general food shops play a crucial role in enlarging the organic food market since they have the advantage of accessing the broad mass of consumers.
Market diversity including models for direct sales are important for small-scale producers and can also serve as promotion for larger markets.
Imports can be a good strategy to enlarge and ensure a growing domestic market for domestic producers.
National targets and strategic plans are strong tools for organic development. The presence of other national goals or initiatives that are working for organic is beneficial. It is important that all relevant stakeholders be involved in the elaboration of such plans.
Self-organized stakeholder cooperation in different forums created a solid common ground for organic and gave the organic sector a strong voice in all development areas.
Organic farmers’ involvement in agriculture policy, standard development and research planning and projects has been important.
Dialogue with conventional farmers increases the possibilities for expansion of organic.
(Author: Inger Källander)
Further Reading on Sweden's Organic Sector Development:
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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