INOFO Side Event at IFAD Farmers’ Forum 2016

Julie Matovu Nakalanda

Julie Matovu of Fresh Veggies PGS, Uganda,

The INOFO side event “Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and their potential to facilitate market access, livelihood improvement and social capital” took place on 18 February 2016 in Rome. André Leu, President of IFOAM – Organics International, gave the opening message focusing on the importance of INOFO’s existence as an autonomous structure with the main purpose of building a network of organic farmers organizations with national and regional convenorships in every continent. Many great presentations followed highlighting both the challenges and successes of PGS initiatives.

Lucil Ortiz, Secretary General of INOFO and member of MASIPAG Philippines spoke about the impact of the Green Revolution, to which farmers responded with sustainable agriculture, and saving traditional seed varieties. Lucil Ortiz also shared how MASIPAG installed their MFSG at a point when farmers were able to produce more than what they needed and started looking for markets to sell their organic produce. The standards used for the system were developed locally and recognized by COROS and IFOAM – Organics International. Currently, MASIPAG farmers’ expertise on organic agriculture and MFSG is recognized by the local government. MASIPAG, together with other organic practitioners and advocates (NGOs, farmers’ groups, consumers) are lobbying for the recognition of PGS as a system of certification.

Marcelo Passos from AOPA, Brasil, contextualized why it was necessary for an organic farming organization in Brazil to emerge and develop a local system of guarantee. Marcelo spoke of the many farmers who were poisoned and had died, forcing farmers to organize and change their farming practices. He also spoke of the challenges of creating a local market. What does a local market mean in a city of 16 million people, such as Sao Paolo? How do you secure an understanding and supportive relationship with governmental officials, when they are always changing and may not know the historical processes of the PGS? Marcelo was also able to demonstrate the exponential growth of the PGS in Brazil.

Julie Matovu of Fresh Veggies PGS, Uganda, spoke about her farming heritage and her renounced profession as agronomist, now using her education as a consultant. She addressed the audience as a farmer. The experience in Uganda included collaboration with NOGAMU to develop standards and workshops to help develop the PGS. In a five-year period, the membership grew from five to two hundred. Members have understood the importance and benefits of supporting the initiative. She mentioned the inaccessibility to organic seeds (which are purchased from the Netherlands) as a challenge faced by her program. Also, the process of developing a PGS in Africa varies in each country, yet, despite the diversity and flexibility, each experience is still considered a PGS.

Allison Loconto representative of FAO presented her team’s research about PGS as an innovative institution. In most cases, the absence of a law regulating the organic production method helped foster these innovative approaches to organizing local markets. 

Then it was time for questions from the audience. 

Moisés Osorto from APAGOLF Honduras asked if there were any experiences with sea species? He explained that in Honduras, Nicaragua and in El Salvador native species, which are fished traditionally, are disappearing, and how important it would be to have a guarantee system to safeguard their efforts. André Leu informed Moisés Osorto of the availability of Wild Harvested Production Standards  from IFOAM  - Organics International for anyone to modify and adopt, which have been used for fish, forest foraging and more. 

In closing, we are pleased to announce, that as a result of its good work, INOFO was invited to join the Steering Committee of the Farmers’ Forum (FAFOSC).

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