Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: September 22, 2016

The Pacific Islands region is setting a global benchmark by pioneering the world’s first region specific organic agriculture toolkit that is aimed at assisting governments to create national organic policies. The Pacific Organic Toolkit will be piloted in Vanuatu and Fiji because they have expressed interest in having organic agriculture policies.

Designed with the assistance of the European Union supported Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) and the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) housed at the Pacific Community, the toolkit were tested with stakeholders in Vanuatu and Fiji.

Toolkit specialist Diane Bowen said that Organics International, formerly known as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is also developing a similar though more comprehensive toolkit, but for global use.

Diane is also Organic International Senior Organic Guarantee System Advisor who assisted POETCom with earlier work on the Pacific Organic Standard getting its recognition and inclusion in the IFOAM Family of Organic Standard.

“There are examples of countries like those in the European Union, India and Philippines with organic policies they developed on their own,” Ms Bowen said. “But the difference is that the Pacific is pioneering the development of a regional specific instrument (toolkit) to train governments and the private sector counterparts for developing coherent and effective policies,” she added.

“As an enabler, the toolkit brings together the private sector, civil society organisation and government and educates them on organic policies worldwide to give a global perspective and brings it the level of the region.

“Together these stakeholders will create the national organic policy using tools, cases and instrument embedded in the toolkit to write a good organic policy that is sustainable and also linked to the overall policy objectives of the country particularly regarding its sustainable development.”

Ms Bowen emphasised the importance of government’s role in fostering the development of organic agriculture. “They are the ones that can allocate resources on a national scale and they are the ones that can also bring a strong voice in development of the organic sector in-country,” Ms Bowen said.

Acting POETCom Coordinator Stephen Hazelman said the toolkit marks a new chapter in organic agriculture development in the Pacific Islands. “For POETCom – this policy work was initiated to directly address the growing interest of regional governments in organic agriculture and its potential,” he said.

“Organics have been driven mainly by the private sector and farmers organizations and NGOs but now Governments are keen to be involved. “This development comes at the right time and POETCom is happy that Vanuatu and Fiji are very keen on testing the tool kit and then coming up with an enabling policy.

“An organic policy will direct national focus on organic farming as a strategy for supporting domestic food and nutritional security, catalysing economic activity, for climate resilience and sustainable agriculture development,” Mr Hazelman added. “It will also enable countries to meet commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

Like a tree, founded on soil, the toolkit branches into three main areas.

The first branch affords the user a treetop view of organic agriculture for soil health, its history, associated concepts and importance for global issues like sustainability, health and the wellbeing of the environment and people.

The second branch touches on creating the organic policy using guides and instruments like for instance a standard template for topics that should be addressed and a decision matrix for actions to take, ‘push actions’ like the provision of extension services to farmers and supporting research.

Similarly, push actions that create demand for organic products includes linking buyers with sellers, public education and the promotion of organic products.

The third branch addresses the development of governance systems like having a Participatory Guarantee System of organic certification and national organic sector organisations that represent the private sector and civil society. It includes as well identifying current unfriendly policies that create an uneven playing field for organic farming e.g. subsidising only the cost of chemical fertilisers and not organic farm inputs. Feedbacks from tests in both countries will be used to revise the toolkit where necessary so that it is applicable and effective for local use.

The toolkit will be launched on the Organic Pasifika website in November.

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