By Constantine Akitanda, Dar es Salaam
THREE organic agriculture knowledge centres are set to be established in eastern, western and southern Africa to spread and accelerate the adoption of organic agriculture practices in the continent.
“We had an interesting network meeting on boosting the role and potential of organic agriculture in Africa at the beginning of April and agreed on the next steps for the set-up of the three hubs,” said Mara Lindtner, an advisor at the Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa in an interview with AfrONet Newsletter recently.
The meeting at SEKEM in Egypt brought together African and German NGOs, research institutes, universities, and associations working with organic agriculture to discuss about ways of promoting the concept in Africa.
“The three knowledge hubs on organic agriculture in East, West and Southern Africa will be part of the German development cooperation project ‘Knowledge Centre on Organic Agriculture in Africa’ implemented by GIZ,” added Mara.
Mara said the Eastern Africa knowledge hub will be implemented by Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) and plans are underway to launch it in mid-July or August.
“For the Southern African knowledge hub, we are planning an appraisal mission by the end of June to the Sustainability Institute in South Africa and the Kasisi Agricultural Training Center (KATC) and PELUM in Zambia to decide on an institutional set-up for the hub and define the next steps to take,” she explained.
She said a similar appraisal mission is being planned for the West African knowledge hub with the same objective, with FENAB and AgrecolAfrique in Senegal the places to be visited.
The possibility to build a fourth knowledge hub in North Africa was explored at the Egypt meeting and is being further investigated.
During the launch of the Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa at Biofach in Nurnberg, Germany on 15 February 2019, the Deputy Director General of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Mr Stefan Schmitz, noted that “agriculture is not just key to fighting poverty but is also critical to food security and an economic engine of growth”.
Mr Schmitz said with productive land shrinking, efforts are needed to ensure food production is in line with the environment, and with the current trend of depletion of resources and climate change, Africa is likely to feel more strongly the consequences.
He advised that entire food and agricultural systems need more improvement and modernization to follow ecologically sustainable practices.
“Business as usual is not an option and organic farming is the way to go”, he cautioned.
Mr Schmitz reported that only about 2% of land globally is managed organically, saying this has to change because organic agriculture is the key to sustainable intensification to strengthen the health of soils, ecosystems, water retention systems and eventually people as a whole.
A stronger focus on diversification and integrated crop-livestock systems will increase access to health and environmental benefits and sustainable soil management leading to enhanced adaptability to climate change. Such achievements are needed to tackle the three main challenges of food security, climate change and sustainable livelihoods in terms of jobs and incomes for growing populations.
Through BMZ’s One World Without Hunger initiative launched 4 years ago, focus has been on managing soil fertility through research and training. BMZ has also been promoting organic agriculture in more than 10 countries under bilateral, regional and global collaborations with over 20 organic agriculture projects.
Mr. Schmitz thanked Prof. Gerold Rahmann and others for their support in developing the Green Innovation Centres which provide innovations for farmers to cultivate better products for markets and develop new value chains leading to increased productivity and incomes. This is further achieved through processing and marketing in collaboration with over 35 public-private partnership projects involving the private sector.
The new project provides the opportunity to examine how to reach millions of farmers, identify obstacles and reasons for them, priorities and driving forces, and how to effect needed changes.
It also provides opportunities for synergies with governments, research organizations, private sector, networks such as AfrONet, farmer organizations, consumer alliances, and development agencies. The project partners were encouraged to generate success stories to show the value of organic agriculture.