Organic Africa at BioFach 2010

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For the third time, Africa had its own pavilion at BioFach 2010. The catalogue of Organic Africa listed 55 exhibitors from 18 countries whose exhibition stands covered 440 m² in Hall 4. At the symposium on 19.2.2010, around 20 lectures supplied information on the state of organic agriculture and marketing in Africa, and the handbook the Organic Business Guide, that had just appeared, was announced on the same occasion. A well attended stand party with live music was held on the Thursday of BioFach. (Picture: Info-stand on Organic Africa: Patricia Wangong’u from IFOAM Kenya on right)
Extremely interesting lectures were on the programme of the symposium "Markets as Motors of Sustainability". More than 120 visitors came, but unfortunately the number of visitors at some of the seminars left a lot to be desired. The Organic Africa Pavilion was managed by the Dutch organisation Agro Eco Louis Bolk Institute and the Swedish consultancy Grolink. Financing also came from Hivos.

When the special exhibition area Organic Africa was opened at BioFach 2010, Corinne Ingels from Mountain of the Moon (picture) was awarded a prize for the best display stand. For years, she has exhibited regularly at BioFach, and this time she presented not only her main product vanilla but also an 82 % Grandu Cru chocolate that is manufactured by Blanxart in Spain. This new company sources its raw materials cocoa, vanilla pods and chili in Uganda and neighbouring Eastern Congo. Mountain of the Moon operates a fair trade policy in its collaboration with over 1,000 small farmers, thus enabling them to survive in this politically unstable region.

Marg Leijdens from Agromisa reported on the preconditions for entering the market with organic products in Africa. The topic dealt with by Charity Namuwoza from the organic growers association Nogamu in Uganda was bringing together the synergies of local, regional and export trade. In her contribution, Su Kahumba (on right in the picture) related her experience of setting up specialist wholefood shops and an organic delivery service, and supplying an organic corner in supermarkets in Kenya. You can access her very informative and well illustrated powerpoint presentation on the internet. She has operated in the organic wholesale and retail sectors for years with her company Green Dreams, and she currently runs a specialist wholefood store and supplies four supermarkets. After many ups and downs, she was in a position to describe precisely the problems organic farmers and marketers are confronted with when setting up functioning organic marketing. She called for far more support from private business and the state, not least to interest more young people and young adults in the organic sector. Her experience of marketing has so far been dogged by the difficulty of getting supermarkets to pay their bills, transport problems and supply bottlenecks caused by farmers.

Anne Oudes from Agro Eco Louis Bolk Institute in the Netherlands addressed the problems and difficulties in exporting from Africa. In her talk, Eva Mbanona (picture on left) from the Congo and representing ESCO-Kivu illustrated the activities of a raw materials trader. The aim of ESCO-Kivu is to create an organic advisory service for 12,000 farmers in Eastern Congo by April 2011. Currently, 4,300 organic farmers are monitored by IMO, and 8,000 are in the process of converting to organic or have expressed an interest in conversion.

Small farmers find it particularly difficult to get access to supermarket shelves, because they often don’t have the necessary uniform volumes and appealing packaging design. How to overcome difficulties was the topic of Eva Mattsson from Grolink and UNCTAD. Cleopa Ayo from Golden Food Products dealt with processing organic foods for the domestic and export markets in Tanzania. (Picture on right: Stand with dried bananas, chili oil and fresh produce from Rwanda)

Edit Tuboly from Hivos reported on various organic farmers’ organisations and their performance in the market. The most topical theme at the Africa Symposium was probably “Organic Agriculture and Emissions Trading”, that was addressed by Alexander Kasterine from the International Trade Center (ITC) that has its headquarters in Geneva. From Jordi Rotllan we heard about the activities of the EU Centre for Development and Enterprise.

Bo van Elzakker (picture), the driving force at the Agro Eco Louis Bolk Institute, introduced the “Organic Business Guide – Developing Sustainable Value Chains with Smallholders”. A printed version costing 10 euros can be ordered on the IFOAM website, or it can be downloaded free of charge. This handbook gives details of what is required to set up small businesses in developing countries and presents practical examples from the organic food and non-food sectors (for example, organic cotton). This useful book contains helpful addresses of international development organisations and companies.

The role of government in the struggle for food security and in dealing with the problems of climate change was the topic addressed by Henry Bagiire, the Minister of Agriculture in Uganda. Theresa Adomako (DCE) dealt with sustainable cocoa production, and Sophia Twarog from UNCTAD spoke about cooperation between public and private sponsors. The subject of Steven De Craen (BTC) in his presentation was the Trade and Development Centre.

Moses Muwanga (Uganda), a member of IFOAM’s world board and Markus Arbenz (Switzerland), the new managing director of IFOAM, demonstrated in their contributions that organic agriculture can be an important part of the solution to climate change. They explored what was required and what organisational measures were necessary to propagate organic solutions more rigorously and to promote their implementation more forcefully.

There was hustle and bustle between the exhibition stands of Organic Africa. The attractively designed stands displaying a wealth of products from Africa like pineapples, bananas, vanilla, coffee, cocoa and cotton presented a striking picture that caused many a visitor to stop, taste and ask questions. But, of course, only a few of them were importers or wholesalers with a serious interest in buying.

Tropical Wholefoods (picture on left) is a company that cooperates with the British wholefood manufacturer Fullwell Mill. Tropical Wholefoods produce delicious dried mangos, pineapple, apricots, bananas, nuts, seeds as well as Fairtrade fruity snack bars. The Fairtrade mangos come from Burkina Faso, the dried bananas and pineapples from Uganda, and the apricots, apricot kernels, walnuts and almonds from Pakistan. Fullwell Mill's bakery combine these with other organic ingredients to make their snack bars.

Jali Organic (picture on right) is a company in Uganda that has attended BioFach three times. It too produces dried fruit from organic pineapples, mangos and jackfruit. 37 farmers, most living and working on Bussi Island in Lake Victoria, cultivate 125 ha. Jali Organic was founded and developed by Moses Muwanga. In 2008, he won the Organic Food Award of the Soil Association for his especially tasty bananas and pineapple.

Carole Tawema (picture) from Karethic presented fairly traded shea products. She grew up in France since she was 10 years old and now imports fair trade shea butter from Benin, the home of her parents. After graduating at the Euromed School of Management in Marseille in 2005, Carole Tawema and her friend Maguette from Senegal founded the small company called Karethic – in French shea butter is beurre de karité. With a background in two cultures and in collaboration with its African partner, her sister Glwadys, the team of seven helps women in Benin to market their shea butter products in Europe. (Picture on right: Ethiopian highland coffee available at a BioFach press conference)

Information about the Africa Pavilion on the internet:

The lectures and the programme of the symposium can be accessed on this website.

The handbook “The Organic Business Guide – Developing Sustainable Value Chains with Smallholders” can be downloaded here too.

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