4th African Organic Congress and the Farmers’ track

The farmers’ track of the 4th African Organic Conference (AOC) was held on 6th November 2018’ in Saly, Senegal, as one of the side events of the conference.  The conference was organised by the African Organic Network (AFRONET) with the aim of promoting “Ecological and Organic Agriculture (EOA) Strategies for Viable Continental and National Development in the Context of the African Union Agenda 2063”.

The farmers’ track took under the auspices of the Inter-continental Network of Organic Farmers’ Organisations (INOFO) which played a key role in the pre-conference preparatory work of mobilising and short listing of presenters, sourcing sponsorships for selected farmers, and organising and directing proceedings of the track during the conference. This is the second, INOFO organised, farmers’ track to be held as a side event at the African Organic Conference.

The objective of the track as one of the pillars of the conference, is but not confined to ‘facilitating the sharing of knowledge, information, experiences and skills among all stakeholders in the organic sector’.  In fulfilling the above objective, presentations were sourced from East, Central, Southern and West Africa. North Africa did not participate in this forum.  However, with Morocco hosting the 2021 African Organic Conference, involvement from the North is expected to dominate the next track. In addition, a paper from Brazil was shared during the event. 

Presentations

Farmers shared their experiences through presentations made under the following topics;

a. Seeds.  b. Soil fertility management. c. Marketing of organic /ecological products.

 Summarised below are names of farmers with their papers;

 (i). Munshimbwe Chitalu- Creating Soil Conditions for Organic Production of Avocados in     Zambia.

(ii). Patrick Chiwawa- Keeping Soil Healthy for Organic Farming – Experiences of Tigwirizane   Women’s Club of Petauke District, Zambia.

(iii). Nana Kwaw Adams – Soil Health and Soil Fertility, Soil Life and Plant Health – ABOFAP – Ghana.

(iv). Abdoulaye Faye – Technique de Compostage – Senegal. (v). Soro Dognime- Experience Du Reseau Yebe.  Utilization des Techniques Pour La Recuperation des Terres Degradees Dansle Nord de la Cote d’Ivoire. (vi). Adeyinka Lateef – Conservation of Local Seeds.  KAZ Organic Foods & Vegetables – Oyo State, Nigeria. (vii). Peris Njeri Kamau – Seed Banking – Seed Savers Network – Kenya.

(viii). Olusola Sowemino – Marketing of Organic Products in Nigeria: Challenges and Lessons Learnt – Ope Farm, Nigeria.

(ix). Shonoila Saidat – Fork to Farm; Understanding Domestic Organic Food Marketing in Nigeria – Green Skills Centre, Nigeria. (x). Thales B. Mendonca – Agroforestry Systems – Brazil. (xi). Grace Chitsaka – Economically Empowering Marginalized Women through Beekeeping Projects in Bandula- Mozambique.

Participation The event was attended by more than forty (40) conference participants including the IFOAM Executive Director, Louise Luttikholt, INOFO President, Shamika Mone with seven (7) council members.  Thales Mendonca, Convenor from Brazil, made a special presentation on Agroforestry Systems.  A total of more than fifteen countries were represented in the audience.

Support to Farmers and Convenors 

Andreas Hermes Akademie (AHA) supported eight (6) farmers to the conference with air travel.   In addition, they facilitated travel of nine convenors, (6 African, 1 Asian, 1 Latin America and 1 from Europe), while Naturland sponsored a farmer from Uganda.

Evaluation and Conclusion

Going by comments made by the IFOAM Executive Director and members of the audience, this event was well organised and better appreciated by participants. In this regard, the farmers’ track fitted  well in the mission of  INOFO which is ‘To Unite Organic Farmers and Support Their Voices at all Levels of Food Systems Development Towards Producing Healthy Nutritious Food and Preserve Mother Earth’.  The INOFO Team under President Shamika coordinated well, with Julie acting as anchor, Daniel as time keeper while both Julie and Janet recorded the proceedings. Famara as host though busy, ensured all logistics were in place at the right time.

Thales printed INOFO t-shirts for the team, as a surprise gift. These show cased INOFO as an organised team with improved visibility at the conference.

Shamika brought hand tools which were given to the presenters during the closing ceremony of the conference.  These were donated by Farmer Dada Wadekar from Maharashtra State in India as a gesture of solidarity to his fellow farmers.

In conclusion, we would like to thank AFRONET for the opportunity, AHA, Naturland and other sponsors for their support to both farmers’ and convenors’ travel and lodging.

The INOFO council is indebted to Dada Wadekar for the tools and all the farmers for their wonderful effort and sharing of such educative experiences.

We are grateful to the IFOAM Executive Director, Louise Luttikholt, for both her support to INOFO & participation in the farmers track.  Thanks to individual Convenors for their dedication and input before and during the conference. We acknowledge a special debt of gratitude to all members of the audience as per attached list.

INOFO in the West and Central Africa IFAD Farmers’ Forum

We are happy, finally, INOFO started to interact with the farmers’ forum (FAFO) in west and central Africa (WCA). We are looking for a greater involvement in order to advance effective partnerships and collaboration between IFAD and Organic Farmers Organisations (OFOs) in country programmes and investment projects.

In April 2018, the WCA region of the IFAD FAFO held its meeting in Nouakchott-Mauritania. Two members represented INOFO from two countries, namely Senegal and Togo. One of the main purposes of the forum is to discuss on how Farmers’ organisation can better support IFAD for a shared benefit partnership.

As the Farmers’ Forum was established since 2005, as new comer, INOFO’s representatives  was mainly over-there to observe, learn and contribute where possible. Despite being the only organisation pushing for Organic and Ecological agriculture, INOFO’s presence in Nouakchott was in a very favourable context. A week prior to the WCA IFAD FAFO, there was in Roma-Italia the second FAO International forum on Agro ecology where the main outcome was to scale up agro ecology in line with Sustainable Development Goals to save the planet.

The IFAD portfolio in WCA showcases some very innovative project set-ups, which are empowering Farmers Organisations (FOs) as responsible for the management of one or more project components. Farmers’ market access through product value chain being a big focus, it also appears a kind of solidarity between FOs from different country to strengthen each other, which also came out as a big demand to the Dr Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD president. The latter also strongly encourage Organic Farmers Organisations (OFOs) to advocate at their country level so that organic and ecological agriculture become a priority in their national program, then IFAD would easily support.

Therefor, INOFO is strongly requesting WCA region of the IFAD FAFO a better communication and a better inclusiveness, like the East and Southern Africa IFAD FAFO, so that the ecological and organic sector become fully part in providing food and agricultural solution in the region . A major learning point is that the Farmers’ Forum is an on-going, bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between organizations of smallholder farmers and rural producers from all over the world.

Promotion of PGS for local marketing in Eastern Africa

Using strategic relations and platforms, INOFO is pursuing the harmonization of PGS operations using the EAOPS mark in the region.  During the recent two day meeting hosted by PELUM, Kenya, for the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative forum for indigenous certification bodies in Eastern Africa region, the EA convener shared an update of INOFO in the region and expressed INOFO’s desire to directly participate in the on-going local and regional marketing initiatives through participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS). Through this forum, we had the opportunity of participating in the on-going review process of the East African Organic Products Standard (EAOPS).  Additionally, on behalf of OFOs/INOFO in Uganda, the JMC (Joint Management Committee), which is responsible for overseeing and regulating use of the EAOPS mark in the region, was implored to follow up on PGS implementation in Uganda. The representatives of the Organic Sector in Uganda as a way forward agreed to meet and look into the PGS operations in the country and work out a strategy for streamlining them to the benefit of all OFOs.

The Freshveggies PGS members have continued to participate in the weekly local markets at Gombe Kinoni Wood Farms, in Wakiso District. 20 members are actively involved in this local market which attracts about 50 – 200 buyers within the neighborhood. The market deals in fresh foods such as local vegetables, bananas, sweet potatoes, maize, beans and fruits. 

INOFO at IFAD FAFO East and Southern Africa Regional Workshop

Joint statement made by FaFo and IFAD  by Julie Nakalanda Matovu & Charles K. Mubanga.

IFAD1’s commitment to fulfil its mandate of fostering rural development has taken on yet another strategic approach of engaging with farmer’s organizations for more effective smallholders’ development. The February 2016 FaFo2  meeting in Rome unanimously agreed to decentralize FaFo to regional levels in the different parts of the world for increased farmer representation, and participation in the development process under the IFAD programmes worldwide. INOFO3 soon after the onset of IFAD- INOFO project, which was implemented by IFOAM4, went to the polls and elected the 3rd INOFO Council, during the General Assembly in Istanbul in October 2014. The council applied for representation on the FaFo steering committee, during the Rome meeting, which was operating at global level, then, and were unconditionally accepted.  

Early 2017, the Global FAFO steering Committee, working closely with IFAD began the process of rolling out FAFO at Regional level. The INOFO council was contacted and elected Charles Mubanga from Zambia as the INOFO representatives on the ESA5 FAFO steering committee, deputized by Julie Nakalanda Matovu, from Uganda.

The major purpose of the meeting was to discuss and work out functional synergies between IFAD and FAFO at the regional and Country levels. On 20th to 23rd May 2017, 40 Farmers’ Leaders from 12 countries and 28 farmers’ organizations, representing millions of small-scale farmers, artisanal fishers, pastoralists met with IFAD ESA Division in Kampala, Uganda, for the First Regional Farmers’ Forum in Eastern and Southern Africa. 

The Regional Farmers’ Forum meeting was also attended on 22nd and 23rd of May by around 260 representatives from IFAD funded projects in 17 countries and staff from IFAD HQ. In fact, the Regional Farmers’ Forum was organized in conjunction with the IFAD Regional Implementation Workshop dedicated to the theme of Financial Inclusion for Rural Transformation that took place from 22nd to 25th May 2017. The four-day meeting was kick started by the first physical meeting of the Regional Steering Committee whose membership currently draws from ESAFF, EAFF, SACAU, INOFO, WFF, WFFP, WFO, La Via Campesina and IFAD.  

IFAD Regional ESA Division welcomes and supports the decentralization of the Farmers’ Forum process and takes it as a key accountability instrument for development effectiveness of the its supported investments in the region. The ESA FaFo Process is steered and monitored by the Regional Steering Committee. Together, the committee members agreed that the committee should be as representative as possible and include, in the near future, representatives of pastoralists from the region.

Key elements of the ESA IFAD-FOs6 Partnerships. ESA FAFO participants jointly decided to focus the collaboration in the region country by country and to articulate country-level action plans. The action plans have been developed during break-out sessions that brought together IFAD Country Teams, Project Coordinators; staff from IFAD funded Projects, and Farmers’ Representatives. Country level action plans were developed for 14 countries, namely for Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The action plans are attached and are an integral part of the joint IFAD/FOs commitment. Elements of the 14 country-level action plans comprise the following:    periodic consultations to monitor country level collaboration and for proposing corrective measures to improve cooperation between IFAD supported projects and FOs ;   support the development of country-level Farmers’ or Rural Producers’ Forums to foster dialogue between national government, FOs and development partners for sustainable rural development;  joint mapping of FOs at country level to explore ways of developing cooperation with IFAD Country Programmes;  Contracts between IFAD funded projects and Apex FOs in support of institutional development of local FOs.

This statement and the specific Country Action Plans were jointly developed by IFAD ESA Regional Division and Farmers’ Delegates and represent a joint commitment that will guide IFAD/FOs country level partnerships between Mid-2017 and end of 2019. 

Other Regional FAFO platforms will be established in sequence, which will include other regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where INOFO already has representation. This is a true reflection of progressive capacity building for OFOs, which was championed by the IFOAM academy under the three-year IFAD-INOFO project, who worked closely with local partners, NOGAMU, in Africa, and OFAI, in India. The INOFO representatives at the ESA FAFO platform hope to continue working with other strategic partners such as the NOAMs7 within the region, OFOs8at local level, IFOAM, and IFAD at country and regional levels to further strengthen INOFO at all levels to utilize the space, participate and benefit from the IFAD facilitate but farmer-led inclusive development process for rural smallholder communities. INOFO recognizes and appreciates the support from IFAD and other development partners for the recognition of principles of inclusiveness, pluralism and heterogeneity of farming systems while working towards the sustainable development goals.