Tuesday 29 October 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva – Twenty young farmers in Sabeto, including five female farmers, are working towards organic certification for papaya for both local and export markets. The farmers have formed the Sabeto Organic Papaya Association and, with the assistance the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), are developing an organic participatory guarantee system (PGS). This will provides a credible organic guarantee and will allow them to use the Organic Pasifika mark when marketing their products, both in Fiji and in nearby markets of Australia and New Zealand.
Organic certification offers niche export market opportunities to farmers but it also addresses important issues for the Pacific: enhancing biodiversity, protecting soils, improving the nutritional quality of food, and providing more employment in rural areas. At the same time, organic agriculture reduces green house gas emissions, cuts nutrient and pesticide pollution, and stops potentially harmful pesticide residues entering our food chain. Organic agriculture builds resilient farming systems capable of combating climate change and securing local food supplies, and is highly effective in sequestrating carbon.
POETCom has secured assistance from the International Fund for Agricultural Development to develop the pilot PGS certification and also from the Enhanced Climate Change Resilience of Food Production Systems USAID Project, implemented by SPC, to help with organic inputs, production and planting. Discussions are under way regarding support from the European Union-funded Improving Key Services to Agriculture project to expand the number of farmers able to participate in the PGS by another 20. This will take the total number of organic papaya growers up to 40 and provide them with a viable livelihood option.
This project builds on the Fiji Papaya Project, implemented by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research through the Koko Siga Fiji and Nature's Way Cooperative, which successfully developed organic production practices for papaya, taking the knowledge and experience gained from the Papaya Project and moving it into a commercial phase.
Stephen Hazelman, POETCom Organic Extension Systems Officer, identified commercialisation as an element often missing from development projects. 'Frequently, agricultural development projects address one issue, such as a production question, but the steps required to translate this into action are missing. Farmers need the links to markets and the tools to access the markets, such as certification, and capital for inputs and land development. Otherwise, the agricultural developmental research is never implemented and no change results from it,' he said.
When commenting on the PGS as a method of certification, Livai Tora, the papaya PGS coordinator commented, 'PGS is a useful certification system for us because it allows us to develop management systems and farmer coordination that work for us and that we implement and manage ourselves. Our farmers need strong, clear coordination, and they need to be well motivated and have a goal in mind. The PGS structure can help with these.'
For more information, contact Karen Mapusua firstname.lastname@example.org or stephen Hazelman email@example.com