Photo: Participants visit the Zai Na Tina demonstration farm in Solomon Islands.
Wednesday 8 October 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Fiji – Attendees at a recent organic agriculture meeting in Honiara were reminded that organic farming has been the Solomon Islands way of farming for hundreds of years.
The meeting on 23 September was hosted by Kustom Gaden Association, the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Land Resources Division. It was support by the European Union-funded Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project.
The Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Jimmy Salea opened the one-day forum, which was attended by farmers, organic exporters, and representatives from non-governmental organisations, government agencies, Solomon Islands National University, and hospitality and catering businesses such as Elshaddai Café and the Heritage Park Hotel.
The workshop brought together various stakeholders and those interested in organics, to develop an effective way of working together and to select a national focal point and representative voice for the Solomon Islands POETCom network.
The forum selected Kustom Gaden Association as the focal point. The focal point will be supported by a committee of stakeholders to facilitate information sharing, collaboration and joint planning.
According to Kustom Gaden Chair Moses Pelemo, organic agriculture is based on the principles of ecology, health, care, fairness and culture.
‘Our ancestors knew this way of farming provided for our food needs but also cared for the soil and environment ensuring our food security into the future. It is only in recent times that organic farming has also become a way for our farmers to earn sustainable cash income,’ he added.
In response to the growing market demand for organic produce from the Pacific, the organic movement has developed an organic standard for the Pacific Islands that is appropriate to the region’s production systems and is also recognised and accepted in the international market.
Certification systems that are cost effective and more relevant to the farmers in the region than third party certification models based on agricultural production standards of temperate countries are also being developed. The stakeholder meeting was followed by a three-day training workshop to prepare organic producers to implement a participatory guarantee system (PGS) for organic certification. The workshop included theory and practical activities focusing on the core documents and structures necessary for the PGS to function.
PGS aims to provide a credible organic guarantee to consumers seeking organic produce through direct participation of farmers and consumers in the organic guarantee process. This is based on recognised standards for organic production. The PGS in Solomon Islands will be facilitated by Kustom Gaden Association and will initially certify canarium (ngali) nuts for export to an organic market in New Caledonia and fruit and vegetables for local markets, providing new income earning opportunities for Solomon Islands organic farmers.
POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based in SPC’s Land Resources Division with funding support from the European Union-funded IACT project.