Suva, Fiji – “Pacific Island farmers have been doing it the right way after all,” said Ms Karen Mapusua.
Ms Mapusua works with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) to promote organic farming and ethical trade in the region. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) currently houses the POETCom. Secretariat.
She said that the promotion of organic farming is drawing lessons from traditional farmers combined with modern understanding of soil science, agronomy and ecology.
[Fiji farmer Sailosi Rasukeni practices organic farming as his father, father’s father did]
“Organic farming is what Pacific Islanders did before modern fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals were introduced. Many still rely on time-honoured methods to provide food for their families, with a small surplus for sale.
“The organic food industry differs in that it uses a more commercial approach to produce greater volumes for trade and involves certification and verification of the organic status of a product which allows access to export markets.
“Ideally, organics is a closed system, so you use what is on your farm to enrich your soil,” Ms Mapusua says.
“it is moving away from the chemical and fossil fuel-based fertilisers. It is also about other things – bio-diversity, how to stop erosion and it is also about social justice – ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their labour and ensuring their health is protected through avoiding sometimes dangerous chemical inputs.”
There is a growing organic industry that promotes better health and trade benefits for consumers as well as producers in the region.
“To ensure consumers are getting the real deal, more certainty is needed around what is deemed to be organic. This means the main players – farmers, producers and others along the supply chain – must meet an agreed standard to receive the prized organic label,” she said.
Certified organic items usually sell for higher prices than standard items.
The task of setting standards, and developing a regional certification system to asses which products meet the criteria, is a key focus for POETCom and SPC.
We are now seeking international recognition for a Pacific standard, and we are in negotiations with different people.
“One of the key things this year is try to establish the Organic Guarantee System – which are the rules by which we can use the Pacific standard for certification,” Ms Mapusua says.
The Pacific Organic Standard logos and seals are owned by SPC, although SPC delegates their management to POETCom.