Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Evaluation of African organic farm products-export programme

This evaluation of an organic agricultural products export programme,in Africa, may be of interest to readers. The complete booklet isdownloadable from the SIDA website and from:http://www.grolink.se/epopa/Publications/Epopa-end-book.pdf

Extract from Executive summary pasted below.
Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa. An evaluationof EPOPAseries: Series - Sida Evaluationissn: 1401-0402isbn: 91-586-8864-1format: Booklet
EPOPA is a programme for development of production and export ofdifferent organic products from Africa. It is a trial and researchprogramme and comprises three projects in Uganda and two in Tanzania.The rationale of the evaluation was to consider the programme fromdifferent aspects such as the EPOPA concept, achievements of theprojects, the performance of the different actors as financier,consultants, exporters, field officers, small farmers etc. Based onthat draw conclusions and make recommendations.
Executive SummaryThe Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa (EPOPA) programmewas initiated in the mid-1990s by Sida. In the period 2002 to 2007 itwas considerably scaled up and subsequently phased out in 2008. Itoperated in Tanzania and Uganda and briefly in Zambia. EPOPA was a"development through trade" programme with the objective of improvingthe livelihoods of rural communities through exportsof organic products. Exporters were the main partners and theprogramme worked directly with them to develop exports of organicproducts. In addition, the programme worked to support emerginginstitutions in the organic sectors.A summary of key data for the export projects in Tanzania and Ugandashows that farmers have sold organic products for approximately US$15million per year and the total export value is more than double thatamount. A total of 110,000 farms have participated, but only 80,000have actively delivered products to the exporters. Considering thesize of households, it means that some 600,000 peoplehave been beneficiaries of the programme. The cost of the programmefor the Swedish taxpayers is one cup of coffee per taxpayer....Some projects are yet to reap the benefits from EPOPA support, as theyare not yet certified and therefore can't access the organic market.EPOPA leaves behind a very vibrant organic sector in Uganda and anestablished sector in Tanzania; 30 export projects in operation;consolidated organic movements; internationally accreditedcertification bodies in Uganda and Tanzania; and finally a largenumber of people with increased understanding of organic agricultureand capacity to develop the sector. In Zambia EPOPA worked too short atime to make any strong impact.In order to set up a successful export project, there was a need tofind the right mix of the following:– a willing and capable exporter– a production base, i.e., willing farmers in an area with suitableconditions and basic knowledge of production– market demand– products that could be competitive in quality and priceHardly any funds were made available for investments or otherincentives for the participating exporters. The focus of the programmewas to create viable business,and EPOPA assisted the actors through awide range of services, from farmer and field officer training tomarketing and certification.The participating farmers were smallholders. Most of them were"organic by default"'; i.e., they used almost no agrochemical inputsbefore participating in the programme. Organic farming itself posedfew problems for the participating farmers. Despite the great varietyof crops and the large number of farmers, there were no insurmountableproblems in the production or with pests.There were expectations from the project implementers, Agro Eco andGrolink, that the farmers would respond to the project by theimplementation of all the positive features of organic farming(improved crop rotations; better nutrient recycling; cover crops andgreen manures and soil conservation) but that didn't happen to a verysignificant extent. Farmers experienced improved food security,largely as a result of increased income, as well generally improvedlivelihoods, as demonstrated by improvement in housing, childrenattending school, and investments in farming.A number of projects were very successful; some were moderatelysuccessful; a handful completely failed. Reasons for failure includedlack of commitment from the exporter or the owners of the company;problems in food processing; a vanishing resource base (for thefishing projects); and management problems. Successfulprojects featured a well-managed and committed company, good fieldwork, and farmers seeing the exporter as a partner and a good market.Generally, EPOPA was more successful in Uganda than in Tanzania. Thisis attributed to implementation and management factors, but it ismainly the case that logistics and geography are more challenging inTanzania and that Uganda has more enabling policies and a betterbusiness climate.EPOPA worked very little with the governments, although towards theend of the programme this changed and EPOPA participated in theorganic-policy development of the countries. The importance of propergovernment policies is felt by the organic sectors in East Africa. Itconcerns both the lack of supportive policies,but perhaps even morethe existence of policies that are harmful to development.Therefore, a programme like EPOPA, despite its private-sector focus,also has to engage in policy dialogue and action.The continued strong demand of organic products and the increasedpolicy support contributed to the success of EPOPA. Other importantsuccess factors were:– Clear market focus of the projects and focus on tangible results;using commercial actors to link farmers to markets– Integrating extension work into the commercial chain so that theexporters are responsible for extension work, financed by income fromthe trade– The use of group certification to facilitate the certification processCentral to the implementation of the projects was the establishment,by the exporter, of a field organization for extension work and forinternal control of issues related to certification. All in all, thefield organization worked, but most of its energy was absorbed bycertification issues, and the efficiency of the agronomic advice inmany of the projects can be questioned. This is not a main interest ofthe exporter.A main challenge to the programme was finding competent and committedexporters. The organic market represented something new for theexporters, and it took quite a while to adjust to. Project periodswere three years, but this clearly was too short in most cases;agricultural projects need longer time in general. Extensionswere awarded mainly to improve the sustainability of the venture.Value addition in developing countries is an appealing proposition,but it is not always so easy to do. Many of the projects that includedvalue addition experienced big challenges, inparticular regarding product design and imported packaging materialsand inputs. In most of the projects, large groups of farmers wereinvolved, and they did experience a substantial increase in income,expressed as a percentage. However,especially for those producingbasic commodities, the increased income was not sufficient to liftthem out of poverty. For farmers producing high-value crops, suchas cashew, fresh fruits, and spices, the increased income issubstantial in absolute terms also.The support to emerging institutions, such as local certificationbodies and national organic movements, was successful. There are noworganic standards and internationally accredited certification bodiesin Tanzania and Uganda and the national organic movements are involvedin local market development, advocacy,and policy development.Working with the commercial sector to develop agri-business involvingmany smallholders has proven to be successful. One needs to keep inmind that the business objectives of the commercial actors may not bethe same as the objectives of development cooperation, but with gooddesign, dialogue, and pragmatic implementation, they can work welltogether.Much of what was accomplished by EPOPA could also be accomplished byother programmes, also without the organic component. However, theorganic markets do provide special incentives. The organic productionsystem is well-adapted to African smallholders and is sustainable.Apart from the effects on income, organic farming also produces publicgoods and ecosystems services such as carbon sequestrationand biodiversity. In future development programmes such services suchpublic goods should be part of the package. The EPOPA programme, orprogrammes with a similar market-led approach, can be recommended formany other African countries. The market is there and the farmers arethere.
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