By Ebere Agozie
Experts say harmonisation of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) standards of organic agriculture in West Africa will guarantee quality of produce and enhance trade in the region.
They gave the assurance at the virtual four day workshop on Harmonisation of organic PGS Standards across West Africa and Regional Organic Trade Fair in West Africa (BioWest Fair).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the harmonisation committee comprises six members from Benin Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali and Togo.
Mr Ernest Aubee, Head of Agriculture, ECOWAS Commission, Abuja and Chairman of Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Regional Steering Committee in his opening remarks, said the workshop was to address two major challenges faced in the region.
“There is a need for harmonisation of organic agriculture standards PGS in the region to facilitate regional trade of certified organic produce and products within the regions.
“There is also the need for an annual regional trade fair in the region to improve marketing of organic produce and products in the region’’.
Aubee who said the workshop was open to stakeholders from all countries in the region, however, noted that the pace of organic agriculture development in the region is still slow.
“Organic Agriculture is developing fast at the global level, however, the pace is still regarded as slow in West Africa compared to that of Eastern Africa, Europe and Australia’’.
Ms Delphine Bodjrenou from Benin Republic, Chairperson, West Africa organic PGS harmonization committee said organic agriculture stakeholders need a regional trade platform for standard organic trade in the region.
“Trade is a very important component of agriculture and certified organic farming without viable trade is not sustainable.
“ Harmonised PGS standards will improve development of organic agriculture in West Africa through demand driven trade that encourages export business within the region.
“It will among other things, be beneficial to stakeholders in the region in terms of diversity of produce, simplicity of the process, empowerment of farmers, and easy access to standardised produce and products in the region.
“It will also promote and increase supply of organic produce and products in the region and stimulate the growth of the organic sector of the region’’.
Dr Olugbenga AdeOluwa, Secretary, Ecological Organic Agricuture, West Cluster and West Africa Organic Network (WAfrOnet) said the workshop and Trade Fair will also improve better understanding of certification in organic agriculture within the region.
He also stressed on the need for capacity building of practitioners in the organic agriculture sector in the region to contribute to food security, income generation, employment and systems resilience, among other benefits.
AdeOluwa, while speaking on the BioWest Africa Fair said it will be one of the ways of improving development of organic agriculture in the region.
“The objectives of the fair are to create job opportunities and improve the livelihood of stakeholders, and ensure a wider spread of benefits of organic agriculture to all stakeholders in the region.
“It will provide a regional platform for producers and business people in the value chain of organic agriculture”, he said.
NAN also reports that the BioWestAfrica Fair will include exhibitions of organic agriculture produce, products and services, business fora and networks.
Plenary presentations were on cross-cutting issues of organic agriculture production, policy dialogues for sustainable organic agriculture business, and award presentations.
The virtual workshop recorded participants from Senegal, Guinea, Mali, The Gambia, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
The Validated working document will be presented to the ECOWAS Commission in preparation for the second level of public validation workshop to bring other experiences : East Africa, India, IFOAM Organics International and other relevant authorities in the field of organic agriculture.