Professor Victor I. O presenting at the scientific track session

Professor Victor I. O presenting at the scientific track session

The 4th African Organic Conference has been officially declared opened by the Minister of Agriculture of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Pape Seck ably represented by Mr Haroun Diop Niang who welcomes everyone to the conference at Palm Beach Hôtel, Saly. Participants from different African countries and other world strategic stakeholders in organic agriculture like; African Union Commission on Agriculture, ECOWAS Commission on Agriculture, UNCTAD, AfrONet, BvAT, IFOAM and key stakeholders in organic agriculture converged  Saly to do justice to theme: Ecological And Organic Agriculture Strategies for Viable Continental and National Development in the Context of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 between November 5th and 8th 2018.

Notable were welcome addresses from the president of AfrONet, Jordan Gama who laid emphasis on the reasons for this kind of gathering which aims at fostering unity among countries in Organic sector. Discussing the overview of the 4th AOC, Dr Olugbenga AdeOluwa, who was  the chair, Continental Organising Committee took the audience through the sequence of the event. In her speech, the Director of IFOAM-Organics International, Ms Louise Luttikholt from Germany reiterates that organic agriculture is not only about production but a way of maintaining a healthy and sustainable food security and according to her, this opportunity will provide a platform to changing the narrative in the sector for better. While stressing the interconnectivity between AFSAR and other sister organisations, the representative of AFSAR urged the participants to work as a team for the ultimate goal of all is to achieve a united world of organic, she also mentioned the four cardinal thematic points around which AFSAR’ conference discussed during their conference. The Chair ECOWAS-led Regional Steering Committee, Mr Ernest Aubee in his welcome note, highlighted the achievements, efforts and projects put in place by ECOWAS Commission on Agriculture, especially on organic agriculture. Delivering the African Union Commission’ speech at the conference, Mr Jonathan Ocran pointed out the fact that the theme of the event is in line with Agenda 2063 of the Commission, he urged the participants to harness African rich agricultural heritage to move organic agriculture forward.

Mr Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS Commission, delivering his opening speech

Mr Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS Commission, delivering his opening speech

Mr Jonathan Ocran, the representative of African Union Commission’ opening Speech

Mr Jonathan Ocran, the representative of African Union Commission’ opening Speech

After the group photograph, the day one events ended with presentations from Gerold Rahman, Germany, Charif GUESSOUS, from Morocco, Jonathan Ocran, AUC and Malick Kane from UNCTAD. The opening ceremony was moderated by Professor Simplice Vodouhe, the Vice chair, Regional Steering Committee from Benin while the evening session was anchored by Mr Mushimbwe Chitalu from Zambia. Noted were the following recommendations from day on’ plenary sessions viz; the need to allocate a substantial budget to Ecological Organic Agriculture for a minimum period of 10 years and the dire need to bring together more scientists and organic producers in order to enhance endogenous knowledge in the sector.

Cross section of participants @4th AOC Opening Ceremony

Cross section of participants @4th AOC Opening Ceremony

The second day of the 4th African Organic Conference started with plenary 2. It was moderated by Mr Mushimbwe Chitalu from Zambia. Different topics were treated. Barbara Zilly of IFOAM Organics International talked about the role of Organic Agriculture in the Global south development. Hanne Knaepen representing ECDMP discussed the Incentives to make food value chains environmentally sustainable in Africa. Dr David Amudavi briefed the conference on Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative while the Programme Manager, Miss Venancia Wambua gave the updates of SDC supported EOA project. Mr Zarchary Makanya gives updates of SSNC supported EOA project.

These presentations were followed by open discussions. Afterwards, the house broke into three (3) tracks; two (2) scientific tracks and a track which discussed Trade/Market and Policy in organic agriculture. Insightful fruitful discussions were the discussions. On one hand, the scientific track with the farmers came out with strong recommendations.

On the other hand, Policy track also came up with insightful recommendations and comments.

Some useful recommendations were made at the end such as: experimentation of a territorial approach to agro-ecology at the local level before testing it at the national level, extension of Ecological Organic Agriculture’ approach in other sub-regions of Africa and diffusion of the success stories of the EOA in the platform of the African Union for a better diffusion and proper mainstreaming into national policies by other countries.

The third day of the 4th African Organic Agriculture started with a plenary on one hand and field trip on the other hand. The farmers went on a field trip to Kaïdara training centre while the plenary went on. Some presentations were made by the representative of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the representative of The French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the representative of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS Commission. These presentations raised some salient points such as: Lack of available comprehensive data collection showing Organic Agriculture’s contribution to food security on production and marketing, the problem of access to finance for small producers, the need to increase the amount of organic food produced in Africa consumed by Africans, the need for TFPs to support more financially the EOA project and the other initiatives favouring AO and agro-ecological transition, the need to bring together various current agro-ecology initiatives in Organic Agriculture and the urgent need for mainstreaming EOA into national policies and programmes as well as centres of organic research institutes and the reconciliation between the various current projects.

The ECOWAS-Commission’ representative, Mr Ernest Aubee being honoured by WAfrONet ably represented by Professors; Vodouhe Simplice (Benin), Victor I. O & Dr AdeOluwa (Nigeria)

The ECOWAS-Commission’ representative, Mr Ernest Aubee being honoured by WAfrONet ably represented by Professors; Vodouhe Simplice (Benin), Victor I. O & Dr AdeOluwa (Nigeria)

Afterwards, there was the lunching of the Ecological Organic Agriculture Strategic Plan by Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission was given award by the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria through the Regional Steering Committee. The conference broke into regional blocs. We mainly have the West African group with people from the Western region of Africa while the other group comprises of participants from the Eastern region.

The West African side event at the 4th African Organic Conference started with individual prayers and was chaired by Mr Ernest Aubee of the ECOWAS-Commission, who welcomed the participants to the programme. In his opening remark, he pointed out the need to bring other countries on board and set the pace for other regions for a vibrant regional organic system that will provide sustainable alternatives for food security issues. He commended the Coordinator of FENAB, Mr Ibrahima Seck and the Local Organising Committee for the job well-done and the host country for providing an enabling environment for the success of the conference. The Regional Secretariat was lauded for putting its best in running the affairs of the Initiative.

The West African 4th African Organic Conference’ Side-event was an opportunity for the Cluster to showcase its strength. There was presentation of participants present at the event by the Vice Chair, Professor Simplice Davo Vodouhe. A total number of 66 participants from eighteen (18) countries; thirteen (13) out of the fifteen (15) West African countries, Morocco, Cameroun, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland were in attendance. The Regional Cluster sponsored a total number of fifteen (15) strategic stakeholders from eight (8) countries namely; Nigeria, Mali, Benin, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

The stakeholders’ analyses for road-mapping in West Africa was one of the items discussed at the side-event. Hence, the mapping out of the categories of relevant stakeholders to be mapped out was discussed and deliberated upon in order to facilitate further studies in ecological organic agriculture in West Africa.

Progress reports from countries implementing the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative in the region and the Regional Secretariat were presented by the Chair, Regional Steering Committee, Mr Ernest Aubee. Key points like; achievements, challenges and comments on the management of the project were the main points in the reports from Mali, Senegal, Benin and Nigeria. It was learnt that efforts are in top gear to bring other West African countries on board.

Furthermore, the forthcoming West African Organic Conference in Ghana was discussed. It was learnt that the Continental Steering Committee approved the hosting country for the 5th West African Organic Conference in Ghana from 11th – 16th of November 2019.  The Chairperson of the Local Organising Committee and President of AOP-G, Doctor Fenzy Schandorf highlighted the major structures put in place to oversee the smooth and effective organisation of the Ghana conference.

The Regional Steering Committee through the Chairman of the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative in West Africa pledged the Initiative’s support to Ghana and all other initiatives in the Region. The West Africa side-event unanimously agreed to support Ghana for the organisation of the conference. The need to expand the EOA-I in other non-implementing countries of the Region is also lauded and supported. It was also stated that any other event taking place in the ECOWAS-Region should be given full support.

In a nutshell, it was recorded that West Africa centred their discussions on road mapping the major stakeholders in the region in order to facilitate future research studies. The region also discussed progress reports from the four (4) implementing countries such as; Benin, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. The 5th West African Organic Conference was also one of the items discussed during this side event. Ghana will host the Conference and all efforts are geared towards making the event a successful one for the region.

The closing prayer was said by Mr N’Guiro El-Moctar of MOBIOM, Mali. After which there was a group photograph, the West African Side-event was later joined by others.

The champions took over around evening time and there were four presentations from organic veterans. The wonderful outings topics were shaped round the experiences, success stories, progress report and research on ecological organic agriculture.

Madam Sue Edwards was remembered through a well-articulated eulogy rendition read by Doctor Sarah Olembo for her outstanding contribution towards the evolution of African organic world. This was followed by award presentation from INOFO to farmers who displayed their expertise in their areas of endeavour.

The participants at the 4th African Organic Conference decided to meet in Morocco or alternatively in Rwanda in 2021 for the 5th African Organic Conference thereby closing the Saly Conference at around 9 pm local time.

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