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232 CHAPTER 14 The African Union’s Position on Organic Agriculture WhatAretheBenefitsofGovernanceatContinentalLevel? Nedson Pophiwa INTRODUCTION Organic Agriculture (OA) has grown in prominence as an alternative to conventional agriculture especially suitable for small holder farmers on the African continent. Many leaders of organic agricultural movements on the African continent are seen lobbying for the formalised recognition of organic farming in their countries through enactment of policies that support the sector. However, most of the organic movements developed in the 1990s operated with little, if any, support from their own national governments, let alone their regional economic commissions (RECs) and the African Union. The latter high level decision makers are largely biased towards conventional agriculture which is perceived as vital for attaining food security through large scale intensified agriculture. So organic farmers on the continent receive ‘rescue’ support from international organisations which promote OA like the International Federation for Organic Movements (IFOAM) and some United Nations agencies, which partner with local agroecological non-governmental organisations to impart organic farming skills to small scale farmers. The private sector which is interested in securing a constant supply of organic produce has been equally influential in training and extension services for African farmers. All these developments have yielded positive results to the extent that more than 1 million hectares of land in Africa comprise certified organic agriculture.1 Despite the ‘absence’ of African governments’ and AU’s support in the initial phases of OA on the continent, one can applaud the fact that the lever on high level support is beginning to turn. The words of the AU’s commissioner for agriculture, Tumusiime Peace, signify the adoption of organic farming in the official agriculture ‘policy-scape’ of the AU which has largely been shaped by conventional agriculture. In her keynote address she stated: 233 It gives me great pleasure to be able to address this august gathering at a time when the organic agriculture movement deserves all the support it can garner from a continental perspective. I am particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of all our stakeholders especially the national organic farming bodies and the partners from the international community for all the efforts being made to get organic farming institutionalised on the continent. 2 The institutionalisation of OA in Africa requires such endorsement by the highest decision making body on the continent because it magnifies the gravity of the sector and attracts the much needed financial and technical assistance from the advanced international organic markets. Added to this, the AU’s reputation as a leader in development of the continent is boosted by such interventions which also make it easier for member countries through the Conference of African Ministers of Agriculture (CAMA) to mainstream OA in their official agrarian policy instruments. As the African Union commemorates a decade of existence since taking over from the Organisation of African Unity, questions are raised as to its effectiveness in dealing with a myriad of challenges bedevilling the continent. According to Laporte and Mackie, ‘given the complexity of this task, the AU has a heavy and ambitious agenda that includes, amongst others, peace and security, trade liberalisation, food security, the sustainable use of natural resources and energy, climate change and migration.’3 Many scholarly recommendations have come to the fore on how the AU must go about strengthening its role in the development of the continent. Adebayo Olukoshi recommends that ‘a strong AU Commission or Authority, endowed with the necessary political clout, capacities and resources, should be able to assume a driving role in the continental integration process.’4 The adoption of a decision by the AU on organic farming will be explored in detail in this paper for it offers a platform for OA stakeholders to participate in the continent’s agricultural economy and possibly improve food security and rural livelihoods of all farmers involved. On the basis of the AU decision and other related statements and concepts notes on AU’s support for OA, this paper will examine the AU’s commitments to recognise organic agriculture at a continental level and the governance implications. Whilst making an appraisal of existing efforts of the continental body, examples will be drawn on how the AU has engaged with stakeholders of OA to position the sector higher on the agenda of African governments, policy makers and the international donor community. For now the discussion will unpack the different aspects of this study such as defining organic agriculture and the meaning of...


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