|Thursday, 10 February 2011 14:49|
Organic Pasifika is not a new concept in the Pacific, it is very much the traditional farming system that Pacific forefathers practiced sustainably for centuries. Today, current farming practices in many communities are still based on ‘age-old’ systems that are free from the residues of agri-chemicals and where environmental integrity remains largely intact. However, the motives for organic farming have changed. In the past farming was predominantly for subsistence living, but in the cash driven societies that we live in today, there is now a need from overseas markets to ensure that products being labeled and sold as organic produce meet international standards. While third party certification began in the Pacific in the late 1980s it has been slow to develop.
The organic movement in the Pacific recognized one of the major challenges facing Pacific Island organic producers is the high cost of certification, auditing and compliance involved in meeting importing country organic standards and/or international standards. In order to address this issue 2 projects commencing in 2007 have been undertaken funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and implemented by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community(SPC) respectively. The main outcomes of these projects were: an analysis the existing situation of organic agriculture and fair trade production in the Pacific islands and to a set of Pacific Regional Standards for Organic Agriculture Products which was developed through a locally owned process and multi-sector participation. These projects also facilitated development of a regional strategy and national plans to lay the foundation of sustainable organic agriculture development in the region. Two key groupings that were tasked with driving organics forward in the Pacific were formed: the first, the Regional Organic Task Force(ROTF) is a technical group representing all sectors and countries involved in organics. This group was charged with developing the Pacific Standard and in 2009 began its evolution into the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) which will be responsible for implementing the Regional Action Plan and serve as the peak body for the organic and fair trade movements in the region. POETCom which will remain housed in the Secretariat of the Pacific Community is currently in the process of developing its governance and management structure.
The second group, the Pacific High Level Organics Group (PHLOG) consists of Pacific leaders who have shown a commitment to organics development in the region and provide high level political support and advocacy.
The first Pacific Organic Standard was officially launched by the Chair of the PHLOG and Prime Minster of Samoa, at the Ministers’ of Agriculture and Forestry Conference in Apia Samoa in September 2008. This now provides a platform for further regional policy development around organics.
POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based at SPC with funding support from the EU Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade project (IACT). POETCom’s vision is that Organics and Ethical trade will be the key contributors to sustaining our cultures and communities; improving farmer livelihoods, communities, people’s health and the environment in the Pacific.