By Naanyu Manei, PELUM Kenya
THE Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative was born out of a resolution by the African Union Heads of State and Governments during the 18th Ordinary Session held on 24-28 January 2011 to support organic agriculture in the African continent.
The regional secretariat was formed to operate and coordinate the EOAI function in the region. The Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat is based at PELUM Kenya which was an interim host from 2012-2017 after which the Regional Steering Committee endorsed it to be the host for five more years 2017-2021.
The Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat operates in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda with ongoing efforts to bring on board Burundi and South Sudan.
Some of the achievements of the EOA-I are seen through BIOFACH which serves as a trade fair that brings together various organic stakeholders to display and share ideas on organic produce and products thus exposing participants to enormous opportunities that exist in the organic sector especially in organic marketing and trade.
For a while now, BIOFACH has continued to serve as an avenue for organic traders to expand their market base through showcasing their various organic products and also serve to motivate participants to increase their efforts in pushing for Organic Agriculture recognition in the world.
The secretariat has been supporting various participants from 2017 to date to attend the annual BIOFACH International Trade Fair in Nuremberg, Germany with the main aim of exposing them to organic traders from the international organic market and be motivated by the organic agriculture latest international trends.
The EOA-I Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat organized a regional forum for indigenous certification bodies of Eastern Africa in August 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. The forum deliberated on ways of strengthening the work of regional indigenous bodies in organic certification, strategies on awareness creation and key requirement for setting Certification Bodies Operations in the region.
In addition, participants shared their experiences in certification and local model certification (Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). Participants were also brought up to speed on the progress of revising East Africa Organic Products Standards (EAOPS) and inputs collated for incorporation and consideration as well as understanding on key criteria for approval of organic inputs.
Seven participants were supported to attend the 4th Africa Organic Conference in November 2018 in Saly Senegal. The participants comprised the three Eastern Africa Organic Champions who were declared during the last Africa Organic Conference in Nigeria in 2015, two farmers, the PELUM Kenya Country Coordinator and the Coordinator for the Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat.
The participants were exposed to the potential of organic agriculture in transformation of national and continental economy through income growth, climate change adaptation, food sovereignty and trade. The participants had an opportunity to share their knowledge, information, experiences and skills with other stakeholders in the organic sector.
Bi-annual RSC meetings are normally organized twice a year. The committee consists of 18 members representing the National Organic Agriculture Movements (NOAMS), National Steering Committees (NSCs), Government representatives, Lead Coordinating Organizations and Gender Representatives.
The discussions focus is mainly on the progress updates of EOA in the region, strategies of bringing East Africa Community (EAC) on board, fundraising initiatives for the region and key challenges and recommendations for the region.
Agroecology success stories and directory for EOA actors in the region were published and shared among all partners in the region. The success stories describe how Agroecology has transformed lives of farmers in the region.
In addition to that, PELUM Kenya supported 12 youth and women farmers from six Eastern Africa countries – namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia – on a field visit to Rwanda.
The visit was hosted by the Rwanda Organic Agriculture Movement (ROAM). The main purpose of the visit was to sensitize and expose Youth and Women Entrepreneurs from East Africa on best practices in Ecological Organic Agriculture Innovations.