The Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative was born out of a resolution by the African Union Heads of State and Governments in 2011 during the Eighteenth Ordinary Session, 24-28 January 2011, EX.CL/Dec.621 (XVIII) to support Organic Agriculture on the African Continent.
EOA-I’s overall goal is to mainstream Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) into national Agriculture systems, policies and programmes by 2025, in order to improve agricultural productivity, food security, access to markets and sustainable development in Africa. EOA-I has been under implementation since 2012. The initiative is currently implemented in 9 countries; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Benin.
The initiative is implemented in interrelated pillars that complement each other in addressing different facets of ecological organic farming, with the aim of eventually rolling it out to the whole of Africa continent, through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); a programme of the Africa Union (AU).
EOA -I has six Key pillars:
- Research, training and Extension
- Information and Communication
- Value chain and market development
- Networking and Partnership
- Policy and programme development
- Institutional Capacity Development
The regional secretariat was formed to operate and coordinate the EOA-I function in the region. The Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat is based at PELUM Kenya. The Eastern Africa regional secretariat operates in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda with ongoing efforts of integrating Burundi and South Sudan.
Mr. Zachary Makanya - Country Coordinator, PELUM Kenya on behalf of the EOA-I Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat.
The World Food Day is coming at a time when the whole world is still wrestling with the vast impact and negative effects of COVID 19. Even as the peoples’ movement were restricted, it was gratifying to see thousands of food trucks felling food from rural farmers to feed the urban populations trapped in cities which were the epicenters of COVID 19 implosion.
This is a rude reminder that we all depend on small holder farmers to survive. During the COVID 19, it was also noted that the uptake of organic food almost trebled since it guaranteed safe food that boosts the immunity of both rich and poor people.
So, as we all look into the future, we need to note that the African Heads of State and Government were spot on 10 years ago in asking all their respective government to increase their support for organic farming.
This year the World Food Day (WFD) comes against the backdrop of the continent being ravished by the COVID-19 pandemic, putting pressure to the already fragile African food systems.
With Covid-19, there have been evidence that most of the deaths for infected people have been more on those with underlying illnesses and weak immunity. One thing for sure is that immunity can be boosted by consuming healthy food.
Before COVID-19, African farmers were already struggling with effects of climate change incidences such as extreme droughts and floods, excessive reliance on agro-chemicals, pressure from pests and diseases, post-harvest losses, market volatility and political instability leading to conflicts. All these have contributed to food crisis particularly in the Sahel region.
WFD is an opportunity for reflection and discussion on how various stakeholders should harness efforts in the food sector geared towards eliminating poverty, hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. In 2019, almost 690 million people around the world went hungry.
Dr. David Amudavi, Executive Director, Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) on behalf of the AU-EOA-I Continental Secretariat.
The 3rd Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment (STC, ARDWE) endorsed the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative Continental Secretariat as the official support agency overseeing the implementation of its Decision on Organic Agriculture and endorsed Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) as the host of the Secretariat. The Secretariat supports the Continental Steering Committee (CSC) chaired by the AUC and provides oversight on the implementation and reporting of EOA in Africa. The CSC is already developing EOA indicators that will be agreed upon by partners for inclusion into the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Biennial Review (BR) process.
African Governments need to comply with their commitments and coherently align respective policies to the declarations and agreements including SDGs, Agenda 2063, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreements and to implement the African Union Heads of States and Governments’ Declaration on Ecological Organic Agriculture of 2011.
The Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) of the African Union Commission (AUC), in response to delivering on the commitments by the Heads of States of the African governments contained in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, developed the AU Malabo Business Plan for Implementation of CAADP and a supporting Operational Plan (2018- 2020). The plans are aimed at supporting AU entities and its member states to generate strategic results from implementing the key actions.
Word from Prof. Charles Ssekyewa
Everything which is consumed by human beings must be safe and healthy. Unfortunately, many people are eating food which is either unsafe or lacks proper or enough nutrients.
Organically produced food, which is well-handled during production, post-harvest and processing, is both safe and nutritious
Food produced organically, but over-processed may be safe, but not nutritious
Food which is sprayed with synthetic fertilisers and chemicals on the other hand, maybe nutritious but not safe.
The chairman, EOA-I Eastern Africa Regional Steering Committee.
With EOA-I’s structures in place, and relevant institutions having been strengthened, efforts are now geared towards empowering small-scale farmers to produce more organic and safe foods.
The aim is to ensure that these farmers are food and nutritionally secure, and that they can sell the excess to communities around, while spreading the practice of consumption of safe and nutritious food.
Already, there is a decision by African Union (AU) members to foster organic agriculture.
On this very important day, I urge all East African countries to implement this decision and ensure that their citizens have safe and healthy
The emergence of Covid-19 pandemic is a clear lesson that people need to be fed nutritious food for them to build resilience to existing and emerging diseases.
Therefore, the time is ripe, for all to collectively promote food that is organically produced and make it affordable and accessible to all.
CEO Rwanda Organic Agricultural Movement (ROAM)
Food availability means to have access to sufficient, high quality, diverse and well-distributed produce to all people - consistently. The food should be affordable and available to all people across various demographics and backgrounds. Consistent availability of safe, affordable and nutritious food for all is a great way to enhance a healthy population.
ROAM’s mission is to develop and promote the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) as a farming method, which sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. This is through increasing consumer awareness, empowering EOA value chain actors and strengthening organic markets. It is also through networking and partnerships with other stakeholders, lobbying and advocating for supportive legal and policy frameworks.
All activities of ROAM aim at ensuring that the Rwandese have access to enough and safe food, which is free from chemicals and GMOs.
Organic farming enhances food security because food is produced in high volumes, is nutritious and safe.
Traditionally, organic farming is practiced at household level. Take the example of kitchen gardening, “akarima k’igikoni”, and smallholder farms, which produce quality food during different seasons of the year.
Smallholder farmers using organic farming systems have huge potential to improve global food security.
Conventional farmers need to switch to organic farming as it is a sure way of producing safe food not only for their own families, but also for the general population.
In order to ensure safe food for all:
There is need to prioritise women’s needs and gender equality, especially in organic farming.
A culture of consuming healthy diets, which are basically organic foods, should be cultivated for all, by all.
To ensure access to food for all, it is imperative to avail necessary eco-friendly inputs (seeds, soils amendment, fertilisers and pesticides) in good quantities and at right periods.
Additionally, producers should be adequately equipped with the right skills and technologies, and have access to finances. This will enable them to grow their own food, with a possibility of selling in local and regional markets.
Production should be diversified to ensure that people access different foods, with various nutritional content.
The production processes should be affordable so that at the end of value chain, organic produce is inexpensive to consumers.
The farming systems have to capitalise on use of locally available inputs and consumption of the produced foods.
Based on the agro-ecological potentials of different regions, trading of produce should be well-facilitated by ensuring proper transport infrastructure and safe storage systems to overcome the constraints of distance and time.
All stakeholders should comply with laid down rules for guaranteeing quality assurance and integrity of products.
The Rwanda Organic Agricultural Movement (ROAM) is the country lead organization for EOA-I in Rwanda.
ROAM is a national umbrella organisation for producers, farmers, processors, exporters and importers involved in organic agriculture and related value chain development in the country.
ROAM was established in 2007 and started to operate as a legally registered non-governmental organisation in 2014. It has at least 1,000 members who work in organic production, processing and marketing of coffee, tea, fruits and vegetables, potatoes, beans, cassava and essential oil.
The World Food Day
Every year, ROAM, joins the rest of the world in marking the World Food Day (WFD). The day is commemorated to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.
The theme of WFD 2020 is, “Grow, nourish, sustain, together. Our actions are our future.”
“Together” is a call for the governments, development partners, non-governmental organisations, scholars, producers, consumers and many others to join hands in the food sector, not only today, but even in the future.
This year’s rallying call, ‘Our actions are our future’, fall squarely in line with ROAM’s push for sustainable agriculture and agro-ecological practices, which are friendly to the environment, promote access to sufficient and safe food, for the current and future generations.
It calls for collective responsibility of all in ensuring production and consumption of safe food.
It is time to take the right action by promoting sustainable agriculture and passing the knowledge on agro-ecology and its benefits to younger generations.
African governments should especially be keen on implementing the Maputo Declaration, which recommended that 10 per cent of the national budget should be allocated to agriculture.
EOA-I Regional Coordinator – Eastern Africa Regional Secretariat
EOA-I endeavours to end hunger through sustainable production, sale and consumption of healthy food. This is in tandem with this year’s World Food Day theme of to “Grow, nourish and sustain. Together”.
Ecological organic production ensures and sustains local food security, sovereignty and production. EOA-I also supports nutrition-sensitive and biodiversity-smart food production for improved dietary health and protection of natural resources.
Ms. Manei Naanyu.
EOA-I aims at providing affordable and healthy diets for all while preserving natural resources and biodiversity and tackling challenges such as climate change. This is through promotion of soil fertility, biodiversity conservation (like native flora and fauna), production methods adopted to the locality and avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs.
Studies have shown that EOA-I improves lives for small farmer families, by increasing their incomes at household level. It further involves employment of climate change adoptive technologies. Therefore, it mitigates the risks of crop failure.
This way, farmers are assured of a harvest, even when their crops grow under harsh weather conditions.
EOA-I encourages use of indigenous seeds, which are adoptive to the local environment, which is a sure way of ensuring good harvest for farmers.
EOA-I protects the environment, promotes biodiversity and utilises locally available resources. It produces healthy and nutritious foods. The market for these foods is growing both locally, regionally and internationally as more people are learning the benefits of feeding on safe, nutritious food, which is organically produced. I therefore urge the regional and national governments to support this growing sector for production of safe and healthy foods for their citizens.
SPIU Coordinator for World Bank and Koica Projects
Food is any nutritious substance which people can eat in order to maintain life and growth.
Food is very important to the Government of Rwanda. In this light, the GoR is responsible for the management of the food economy of the nation. The government has been putting in place policies (e.g: Vision 2050, National Agriculture Policy), strategies (eg: National Strategy for Transformation 2018-2024, Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation 2018-2024 - PSTA4), plans (eg: The National Food and Nutrition Policy and the National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan) to ensure and sustain food.
It undertakes various activities, such as promoting domestic production to meet the demands of the growing population, promote food storage facilities, educate the citizenry on different aspects of food, etc. Every year, Rwanda dedicates one week to cultural harvest (Umuganura) to recognize the efforts of those who are involved in agriculture, and strategize for increased harvest in the subsequent seasons.
Mr. Innocent Bisangwa.
The government of Rwanda have adopted a range of policies over the last 20 years in an attempt to strengthen efforts on food safety, in established Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (RWANDA FDA). This Authority has the mandate to protect public health through regulation of processed foods and promoting public health, educating and informing the community about healthy eating.
Provision of policy related to healthy eating practices′ Programs and health promotion initiatives (eg: Law relating to the regulation and inspection products of food). The Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has conducted a three-months nationwide inspection on food safety in a move to ensure that all food processing industries, to ensure that packaging and raw materials, storage facilities, processing equipment, personnel and staff hygiene, among others, comply with the safety standards.
The government of Rwanda has been promoting organic farming in the country through various decentralized schemes: research on bio-fertilizers technologies (e.g. vermi-composting, organic fertilizer, enriched compost), organic fertilizer, quality assurance and regulation: upgrade the capacities of personnel on private standards on organic certification, VAT exemption on agricultural inputs. Every year, the Ministry of Agriculture supports Organic Agriculture in Districts through compost.
The move is aimed at produced organic fertilizer and utilization as part of integrated soil fertility management practices in conjunction with the gradual liberalization of fertilizer supply. The government has also established a Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), an institution which combines research, education, and extension services in Organic Agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda Organic Agriculture Movement (ROAM) on implementation of organic agriculture in Rwanda. Both parties have harmonized organic agriculture indicators to be reported through Ministry’s Management Information Systems (MIS).