A group of organic practitioners from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Palau and Vanuatu were trained to facilitate the development of organic participatory guarantee systems (PGS) to provide a credible organic guarantee to consumers seeking organic produce. This will be done through the direct participation of farmers and consumers in the organic guarantee process, and is based on recognised standards for organic production.
The training, which concluded on 7 June 2013 in Nadi, marked the first activity of a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
During the training, participants completed action plans for implementing PGS in their home countries that will be supported through the IFAD project and POETCom activities.
One of the participants, Ahling Onorio, Manager of Kiribati Organic Producers, said that the first step will be to raise awareness of PGS and of the importance of organics for small islands, which depend not only on the land but also the sea for their livelihoods.
The action plan for Kiribati includes meeting with the Abaiang Island Council to discuss plans for PGS and seek their blessing for the work. It also involves undertaking training on producing virgin coconut oil and sugar from coconut sap so that these value-added products can be included under the PGS and open up new sources of income for producers.
Cicia Island in Fiji’s eastern Lau Group intends to be certified under PGS so that produce from the island can be marketed under the ‘Organic Pasifika’ PGS certification. This will be done with the full engagement of the communities and youths on the island.
The training enabled participants to work through the theory and practice of PGS, which included field work and mapping of farms, as well as peer inspections of organic papaya farmers in Sabeto, Fiji.
The peer inspections are at the heart of PGS and involve growers undertaking the organic inspection of other growers’ farms, much as scientists peer review each others’ work to ensure standards are high and that any issues of concern are not overlooked.
According to Stephen Hazelman, POETCom Organic Extension Systems Officer, peer reviews are an important part of training in the certification system.
‘This is where real development and innovation happen – farmers learning from each other, sharing knowledge and seeing for themselves what works and what doesn’t work on farms. It is much more meaningful than seeing something on a demonstration plot or just being advised that something works,’ he explained.
In summing up the training, the Executive Chairman of the Rotuma Export and Marketing Company, Hiagi Foraete, said that passion and commitment to organics was required.
‘Traditional structures will be used to ensure the organic guarantee along with peer reviews and training activities. The passion will come from recognising the environmental benefits to future generations that our actions today will have,’ he stated.
Around 30 participants attended the training.
POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based at SPC with funding support from the European Union-funded IACT project.