Organic Farming Has a Future in Benin

Green Innovation Centre promotes locally adapted certification

Organic agriculture is becoming increasingly popular in Africa as well. More and more smallholders are specialising in the field. However, quality standards are high and certification through external audits expensive. The Green Innovation Centres, therefore, support the introduction of local quality standards through locally adapted guarantee systems – a necessary condition to improve smallholders’ access to the national market in the long term.

The trend is their friend.  Photo: © GIZ / Klaus Wohlmann

Start of a new quality drive

“We recently conducted training courses in Cotonou and Addis Ababa on so-called participatory guarantee systems with 30 future trainers from several countries”, reports Madeleine Kaufmann from the Green Innovation Centre in Benin.

“It concerns the distribution of a new form of quality guarantee and is centred on the close cooperation between all the stakeholders along the value chain”, says the junior advisor. The certification was based on participation, mutual trust, networking, shared responsibility and the exchange of experiences.

The members of a participatory guarantee system network, therefore, commit to fulfilling the quality criteria and to checking up on one another. They visit each other’s farms at least once a year to verify cultivation is free of pesticides and genetically modified plants. The use of local resources, such as organic fertilisers produced by the farmers themselves, is yet another aspect. Quality standards are based on the requirements of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements IFOAM and can be adapted locally.

Worldwide 50,000 smallscale farmers are participating

A promising concept, because where certification becomes affordable, organic farming is no longer a privilege of large farmers. Some estimates speak of more than 50,000 smallholders who are involved in participatory guarantee systems worldwide. Participatory guarantee systems certified production is most common in the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and India.

“I hope that the training is a good start for the creation of several participatory guarantee systems, also in Western Africa”, says Edgar Deguenon from the Association to Maintain Small-Scale Agriculture (AMAP) in Benin, the first participatory guarantee systems certified organisation in francophone West Africa. AMAP successfully distributes organic products on the national market. “We started small, and today we work with more than 140 producers and supply all the big cities in the south of Benin.”