Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Growing with love and care, Organic agriculture grows in Africa

Growing with love and care, Organic agriculture grows in Africa
 ‘Organic agriculture is extremely important in human life. The food we eat today is grown without real love and care for human life’, says Zambia's First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda, one of the prominent speakers at the 2nd African Organic Conference in Lusaka, Zambia. The conference will attract some 300 participants from more than 40 countries and four continents.

 Organic agriculture in Africa is growing rapidly. More than 1 million hectares of arable land and at least 530,000 farmers are certified, according to organic standards in Africa. Uganda and Ethiopia have each more than 100,000 certified organic farms and Tanzania some 85,000. Most of the certified organic production is sold for exports, but there are good organic markets in South Africa and Egypt and emerging markets in countries such as Senegal and Kenya. Many more farmers, from Morocco to Madagascar, from Cairo to Cape Town, practice organic farming for the benefit of local communities and the environment.
From being ignored or even oppressed by government, organic farming is increasingly recognized for its contribution to food security, poverty alleviation and the environments.
The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, told delegates at COP 17 in Durban in December:
‘Several studies show that the use of organic methods of farming by small producers in developing countries can lead to an increase in crop yields and thus enhance food security among the poor. Sustainable crop and livestock systems provide ecosystem services that restore productivity, conserve soil, water and biodiversity, take away carbon, regulate climate and provide landscape and cultural values.’ 
The Executive Council of the African Union has recently adopted a decision on organic farming. The decision calls for the establishment of an African organic farming platform based on available best practices.  

The conference in Lusaka 2-4 May, provides an opportunity to showcase the contribution that organic agriculture already makes and discuss how it can be scaled up to meet the combined needs of more food production, maintaining the environment and increasing income. ‘It makes us proud that Zambia is becoming a pioneer in climate-smart agriculture. Our expectations are that the conference will be a practical learning and implementation experience.’ said Munshimbwe Chitalu, OPPAZ chief executive officer. Topics addressed range from organic policies and action plans, private sector initiatives, research and options for cooperation on organic standards in Africa. Research findings and studies of best practises form a major part of the conference. The full programme is available at
 The Second African Organic Conference Mainstreaming organic agriculture in the African development agenda will take place in Lusaka, Zambia, from May 2 to 4, 2012.
The conference is organized by the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Zambia, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Grow Organic Africa under the auspices of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) and the African Union. Registration is open until 10 April at
More information at www.africanorganicconference.com.
 Munshimbwe Chitalu, OPPAZ, gmchitalu@gmail.com, tel. +260-21-1263 070
 Gunnar Rundgren, Grow Organic Africa, gunnar@grolink.se, tel. + 46 70 518 0290
 Hervé Bouagnimbeck, IFOAM, h.bouagnimbeck@ifoam.org, +49-228-92650-23
 Sophia Twarog, UNCTAD, s ophia.twarog@unctad.org, tel. +41 22 917 5082

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 What is organic agriculture?
 Organic agriculture is a production system based on active agro-ecosystem management rather than on external inputs. It builds on traditional agriculture and utilizes both traditional and scientific knowledge. Certified or uncertified, organic agriculture offers a wide range of food security, economic, environmental and social benefits.
Organic agriculture builds soil fertility and structure by restoring carbon and nutrients to the soil through sustainable land and water management techniques such as composting, cover crops, mulching and crop rotation. This can help African crops reach their full potential of yielding two to four times more than they currently do. 
 Research shows that organic agriculture is a good option for food security in Africa – equal or better than most conventional systems and more likely to be sustainable in the longer term. An analysis of 114 cases in Africa revealed that a conversion of farms to organic or near-organic production methods increased agricultural productivity of 116 per cent. Moreover, a shift towards organic production systems has enduring impact, as it builds up levels of natural, human, social, financial and physical capital in farming communities.
  •     Under the Environmental Action Team project in Kenya, maize yields increased by 71 per cent and bean yields by 158 per cent. Moreover, increased diversity in food crops available to farmers resulted in more varied diets and thus improved nutrition.
  •      For 20,000 farmers in Tigray, previously one of the most degraded regions of Ethiopia, crop yields of major cereals and pulses have almost doubled through the use of ecological agricultural practices such as composting, water and soil conservation activities, agroforestry and crop diversification.
  •      In Uganda, an in-depth study of 331 farmers found that those engaged in certified organic export production had significantly higher incomes than their conventional counterparts. Conversion to organic was fairly easy, involved little risk and required few, if any, fixed investments. The organic households became more food-secure due to higher incomes.
 More resources:
 Reports from earlier conferences
 FAO web site for organic agriculture
 IFOAM Africa Office
 UNCTAD policy brief and other resources
 President Zuma’s speech:

(this is a press release for the conference, I am much involved in the organization of it)

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