Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024
                                                                          Experts in organic agriculture have called for more concerted efforts by stakeholders for Nigeria and other West Africa countries to access enormous opportunities in organic agricultural produce and products.
They made the call in Abuja, at a two-day conference with the theme: “Development of a Harmonized Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) standard for West Africa.”
Jude Obi, President of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, said the West Africa region must access its quotas from the inestimable amount of money available for organic agriculture globally.
Obi said that development of organic agriculture could comfortably address the challenge of food security and increase foreign exchange earnings, stifling the economy in the region.
He expressed concern that the African continent and West Africa were yet to scratch the surface of their own quota in organic agriculture trade.
“Now, the West Africa organic agriculture landscape is evolving, clearly evolving, but the opportunity is massive.
“The amount of money available for organic agriculture in the world is inestimable. And for us in Africa and West Africa, we are not even scratching it.
“So, this is an effort to expand the horizon, make trade easy, make people interested in organic agriculture, increase production which is very important and earn the much needed foreign exchange.
“Which is one of the things that are stifling the economy of West Africa and by extension Africa.
“It is clear that both the African continent and West Africa; they are not scratching the surface. They are not scratching the surface of their own quota in organic agriculture trade,” he said.
Obi said the essence of the conference was to ensure that organic agriculture get rooted in the region to address the challenge of food security and earn more foreign exchange in the region.
“We are gathered here importantly because organic agriculture is gaining traction in West Africa, Africa and the world. And it is not organic if it does not have guidance, if it does not have traceability.
“So, traceability is very important in organic agriculture. We are here to establish protocol for traceability in organic agriculture in West Africa.
“If we are able to achieve this, then there will be easy trade within the sub-region.
“This traceability we are talking about, we call it participatory guarantee scheme. It is the lower level of traceability simply because we have two levels of traceability.
“The first one is a third party. The second one is the participatory guarantee scheme. This participatory guarantee scheme is designed for farmers.
“Third party is expensive and organic agriculture prepares itself to bring in everybody.
“So, participatory guarantee scheme is a process through which a small farmer that doesn’t have a large quantity of money to go through a third party can still establish their traceability, have standard, have certification and be able to trade just like every other person.
`And most importantly, have premium prices because the target is premium price. So, we have gathered here to establish a protocol for a participatory guarantee scheme for the West African region,” he said.
Oyewole Gbadamosi, Coordinator of the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative in West Africa, in his submission said that organic agriculture would enhance global trade, promotion of exports, and exportation of material among others in the region.
According to him, the conference was planned to facilitate the development of a regional standard for organic agriculture in the West African states.
“It is aimed to create a short supply chain for product movements across the member states and we are gathered here to do exactly that,” he said.
He said that the conference would among others address the issue of verification in terms of the quality of things that are produced organically.
“We have had many products labeled organic and which are not. I have also had different regulations which have not been followed particularly in some West African states, where we do have regulations on organic agriculture.
“So this particular workshop is to provide the working documents for certification and reference label for organic products and to serve as a value addition for the organic product and to increase the credibility of the products while moving across the region.
“We are expecting that this can be a giant stride for the development of organic agriculture in the region, while working hard to see that we are able to even leverage on some of the other important things that this particular initiative brings.”
Dr. Kofi Emanuel, Programme Officer of Rural Development and Land Government at the ECOWAS Commission, Department of Economic Affairs and Agriculture, said development of organic agriculture would address the challenge of food security in the region.
Emmanuel, who is also the Chairman of the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative, Secretariat in West Africa, stressed the need for harmonisation of standards across member states.
“I cannot say that there is no standard. There are standards in the member states. People are producing organic products but for free trade across our member states.
“We need to harmonize these standards. That is why we are doing this now. We are working.
“You know, our agriculture, if you compare our practice to other countries as in other continents, we can say that we are seeing the area of Ecological Organic Agriculture because we use less of our fertilizers.
“The chemical fertilizers are very less. We are about 18 to 24 kilograms per hectare. Even compared to those of Asia who are 300 kilograms, more than 320 kilograms per hectare.
“Our agriculture is still ecological and organic. It feeds its population. So we need to have the label, we need the standard for it,” he said.
He equally harped on the need for access to technology, sharing of information, research and develop capacity of our farmers for the development of the sector.
“So, the capacity building issue is very important for our farmers and our organization. We need certification. It’s very important.
“If you go to the market, your products are not certified. If you didn’t have a label on your products, it cannot make visibility of that. So it’s very important to do all these processes,” he said.
He agreed that organic agriculture might not be able to feed the entire population in the region but can contribute significantly in feeding them.
“Organic agriculture can contribute to feed this population; can contribute to produce and taking into account our soil health.
“But we cannot feed all our population through only organic agriculture. We need to manage, taking into account the necessity to preserve the fertility of our soil and to tackle all the challenges we have to face,” he said.

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