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Organic agriculture in

Kenya and Uganda


Charles Walaga

CTA number 8033

This report was produced following a study visit to Kenya and

Uganda, 19–30 April 2004. The visit was sponsored by CTA and

organised in collaboration with the Organisation for Rural Research

and Development (ORREDE) and the Sustainable Agriculture

Community Development Project (SACDEP–Kenya).

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) was established in 1983 under the

Lomé Convention between the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States and the European

Union Member States. Since 2000, it has operated within the framework of the ACP-EC Cotonou


CTA’s tasks are to develop and provide services that improve access to information for agricultural and

rural development, and to strengthen the capacity of ACP countries to produce, acquire, exchange and

utilise information in this area. CTA’s programmes are designed to: provide a wide range of information

products and services and enhance awareness of relevant information sources; promote the integrated use

of appropriate communication channels and intensify contacts and information exchange (particularly

intra-ACP); and develop ACP capacity to generate and manage agricultural information and to formulate

ICM strategies, including those relevant to science and technology. CTA’s work incorporates new

developments in methodologies and cross-cutting issues such as gender and social capital.

Published by:

Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Postbus 380, 6700 AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands

Tel: +31 317 467100; fax +31 317 460067; e-mail; Website

CTA: November 2005

Prepared by:

Charles Walaga, Organisation for Rural Research and Development (ORREDE), PO Box 27317,

Kampala, Uganda

Edited by:

Words at Work, West Hill House, 6 Swains Lane, London N6 6QS, UK

CTA’s Working Document series consists of material that, in view of its immediate relevance and practical

use to specific readerships, the Centre wishes to make available without the delays inherent in the formal

publication process. These Working Documents have not gone through this process and should be cited

accordingly. Comments on matters of substance are welcome, and should be addressed directly to CTA.



Acknowledgements iv

Summary 1

Acronyms 6

Introduction 9

The study visit in Uganda 15

The study visit in Kenya 37

Recommendations 45

Conclusion 48


1 Criteria for participation in the study visit 50

2 List of participants in the study visit 51

3 Study visit programme, 19–30 April 2004 53

4 Groups, organisations and institutions visited 54

5 Members of the IFOAM-Africa Advisory Committee 55

6 Background papers: Uganda 56

7 Background paper: Kenya 70

8 Background paper: Tanzania 72

9 Background paper: Zimbabwe 75

10 Background paper: Madagascar 77

11 Background paper: Sudan 84



CTA wishes to thank the Organisation for Rural Research and Development (ORREDE) and its

partner, the Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programme (SACDEP)-Kenya, for

organising the study visit. The Centre would also like to thank the farmer groups, community-based

organisations (CBOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), companies, and training and research

institutions who shared their experiences with the study visit participants.

CTA hopes that this study visit report will contribute to a better understanding of the organic subsector

in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and that the links forged will develop into fruitful


Organic agriculture in Kenya and Uganda





The objective of the study visit to Kenya and Uganda in April 2004, sponsored by the Technical Centre

for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and focusing on organic agriculture, was: ‘Improved

information and communication in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries on best practices

and added value production and certification of organic products (including medicinal plants)’. The 20

participants in the visit were stakeholders in the production and certification of organic products,

including medicinal plants, in Uganda and Kenya.

The expected results were:

• Exchange of information among participants;

• Analysis of best practices observed in the field;

• Recommendations for follow-up actions.

The participants were drawn from eight ACP countries (Grenada, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique,

Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and one European Union (EU) country (Austria) (see Annex

2). At the opening meeting in Kampala, Uganda on 19 April, the participants were briefed on the study

visit programme, aims and objectives and given information on the agricultural sector in Uganda,

particularly the organic subsector.

In Uganda, the participants visited projects involving rural farmers who had adopted organic

agriculture, a university’s organic agriculture neighbourhood schools outreach programme, and

enterprises focusing on honey production, processing and marketing, medicinal grass processing, and

sweet banana and pineapple processing. In Kenya, field visits were made to organic agriculture

training institutes and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), organic farms, and small honey and

medicinal plant processing enterprises. At the end of each day the participants discussed and

synthesised their experiences and observations. The final group synthesis session was held in Nairobi,

Kenya on 29 April. The study visit programme is reproduced in Annex 3.

The main issues affecting organic agriculture in developing countries, as identified by the study visit

participants, are given here.

Organic agriculture as a strategy for production intensification

Throughout the ACP regions the size of landholdings is diminishing, posing a major challenge to

farmers to produce adequate food and income for their families. During the field visits, the study team

was able to observe and discuss with farmers and extension agents the successes in efforts to intensify

production by applying organic agriculture principles and practices, resulting in an increasing number

of NGO and formal training institutions offering training in organic agriculture. In Uganda and

Zimbabwe, school outreach programmes in organic agriculture are being promoted.

It was noted, however, that these successes are not well documented and disseminated, and little

information about them reaches researchers and policy-makers. Media coverage of this subsector is

limited. This all serves to constrain the development of local markets for organic produce.

The study visit participants recommended that the quality and availability of information about

organic agriculture should be improved, that a list of publications and institutions focusing on organic

agriculture be compiled and that a technical journal on organic agriculture in tropical and sub-tropical

regions be launched. They also recommended greater use of local media to raise awareness about

organic agriculture and its potential.

Networking to promote information exchange and policy advocacy

The participants voiced the need for better networking among organic agriculture practitioners and

other stakeholders to improve the exchange of information and strengthen policy advocacy. In

Madagascar, for example, a network among traders in organic agriculture products does not include

farmers; in Sudan, the University of Khartoum’s work on organic agriculture appears to be isolated

from other stakeholders; and in Grenada and Mozambique there are no formal organic agriculture

networks at all.

Among the formal networks that do exist is Participatory Ecological Land Use Management

(PELUM), a regional membership organisation launched in 1995 and covering Eastern and Southern

Africa. There is also the National Organic Agriculture Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU) established

in 2001, and a national network is being set up in Kenya. The International Federation of Organic

Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has also established an Africa desk in Kampala to promote

increased networking and policy advocacy in organic agriculture in Africa.

The study team recommended strengthening national and regional organic networks in order to

improve information exchange and dissemination and to foster the pooling of resources for better

advocacy. The recently established IFOAM office in Uganda could play a crucial role here.

National organic agriculture policies and institutional frameworks

The study visit participants noted that most ACP countries lack national organic agriculture policies.

They attributed this to poor awareness and understanding of organic agriculture among policy-makers

and decision-makers. The successes achieved to date in developing the subsector stem mainly from

the economic liberalisation polices enacted by many ACP governmentss, but the subsector will not

realise its full potential unless there are explicit government organic agriculture policies and

programmes in place that enable it to access the required financial, technical and institutional resources.

The participants recommended the formulation of national organic agriculture policies. These would

not only make the necessary resources available, they would also enable national, regional and

international development partners to identify priority areas for support.

Organic agriculture in Kenya and Uganda


Supporting ACP research on organic agriculture

It was noted that, in most ACP countries, research on organic agriculture is negligible. Where it is

being conducted, it tends to be isolated and not part of a national effort to develop the subsector.

Without greater support for research in proportion to that invested in conventional agriculture, the

subsector will remain under-developed. Areas where research is urgently required include validating

organic agriculture technologies and practices and developing pest and disease management strategies.

The study team recommended that greater efforts be made to raise awareness among policy-makers

and decision-makers of the role of organic agriculture and the need for national policies that prioritise

research needs. This would require enhancing the capacity of national networks to generate, document

and disseminate information on organic agriculture to government bodies, research institutions and

development partners. These networks should enlist support from the worldwide organic movement.

Organic agriculture certification systems and services

The standards currently used for the certification of organic produce for the international markets have

been developed in Europe, Japan and North America where, unlike most ACP regions, climates tend

to be temperate and farming is highly mechanised. In addition, because of the lack of regulatory

frameworks for organic agriculture in most ACP countries, most ACP organic produce enters the EU

via a derogation in EU regulations (‘back door provision’) on organic agriculture under conditions that

are generally disadvantageous to ACP producers. Eastern Africa is among the few ACP regions where

efforts are being made, albeit by the private sector and civil society bodies, to develop a set of regional

standards for organic agriculture. Such standards need to be coded by governments or inter-

governmental agencies if they are to be recognised by developed countries. Once coded, they would

give ACP countries greater bargaining power in bilateral and multilateral negotiations with the

countries and regions of the North as well as in such fora as World Trade Organisation (WTO) meetings.

Most ACP countries lack certification agencies. Certification services are usually provided by EU- and

US-based agencies. The study team noted, however, that efforts are being made in several countries to

establish such agencies, examples including Kenya (AfriCert), Tanzania (TanCert), Uganda (UgoCert)

and the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ). EU accreditation to other

national organic programmes, such as those in the USA and Japan, will present further challenges,

such as covering accreditation fees, meeting quality standards and acquiring recognition in an area

dominated by the private labels of well-established certification agencies in the North.

The study team recommended investment in building the capacity of regional inter-governmental

agencies to provide the institutional frameworks for regional organic agriculture certification and

standards. These agencies include the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA),

the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the East African Community (EAC).

During the study visit, a particular area of certification examined by the participants was organic

honey certification. In many ACP countries, honey production is now being promoted as a viable



income-generating activity for rural communities. Honey and other bee products have a high export

potential, particularly in view of the bee disease problems in China, a major exporter of bee products.

A constraint facing ACP countries, however, is the difficulty in ensuring that bees’ forage areas are

organic, and thus organic honey production is restricted to areas such as national parks and natural

forest reserves. In Zambia and Tanzania, certified organic honey is being produced in forest reserves.

In Uganda, although there is honey production in forest reserves it is not certified because the little

that is produced is consumed locally. Other certification constraints relate to composition, as African

honey lacks consistency because of the diversity of plants from which the bees collect nectar. The

study team recommended that increased efforts be made to produce honey in conservation areas.

Consumer awareness of the benefits of organic agriculture

There is very little consumer awareness in ACP countries about the benefits of organic agriculture.

This constrains the development of viable local organic markets and means that, although more

farmers are adopting organic agriculture practices, their focus is on exporting to countries in the North.

Efforts are being made to establish local outlets and raise awareness in some ACP countries, including

Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africa leads the way in this field, with

significant growth locally for organic produce in recent years.

The study visit participants recommended that vigorous efforts should be made to raise awareness of

the benefits of organic agriculture among consumers and to develop local markets by establishing low-

cost marketing outlets and secure marketing chains from farmer to consumer.

Conversion from conventional to organic agriculture

The participants noted that it appeared easier for farmers in countries with good soil fertility, such as

Uganda, to convert from conventional to organic agriculture. Where soil fertility is poor, as in much

of Kenya and Zimbabwe, for the conversion to be successful farmers need easy access to affordable

soil amendments. The participants observed that many farmers in poorer regions do have livestock, an

important element of viable organic production systems.

An additional challenge is that the certification costs involved in conversion are often prohibitive,

primarily because of the required length of the conversion period. The EU regulations of 2 years for

annual crops and 3 years for perennial crops are considered unrealistic for most low-input farming

systems in ACP regions. This illustrates the inappropriateness of organic agriculture standards

developed in temperate farming systems being applied to ACP countries.

Processing organic produce

Organic produce undergoes very little processing in ACP countries. What is exported is mostly in its

raw form. During the study visit, the participants noted that fruit processing (solar drying) and

packaging in Uganda is constrained by the lack of suitable technologies. Losses incurred as a result of

Organic agriculture in Kenya and Uganda


cloudiness are high, and the back-up systems for solar-drying operations when there is not enough

sunlight are inadequate. Systems such as diesel burners that help maintain temperatures and thus

prevent fruit from going to waste are needed. In Uganda, experiments are being conducted with

systems based on using firewood and improving solar heat capture, but such initiatives are expensive.

The study team recommended lobbying governments to invest in the research needed to develop cost-

effective and efficient processing equipment and facilities.

During the study visit, a particular area of processing examined by the participants was the processing

of medicinal plants. The participants visited a project in Uganda where lemon grass produced by

farmers is centrally distilled by a community-based women’s group. The extracted essential oils are

exported to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), where they are

processed into soap, shampoos and aroma therapy ointments and marketed. Constraints include

distillation unit maintenance and repair difficulties, inappropriate distillation technology and low

production capacity. The study team learned that in similar projects in Madagascar the farmers use less

sophisticated distillation equipment that is made locally and is therefore easier to maintain.

With the numerous medicinal plants used in ACP countries, the participants considered that medicinal-

based micro-enterprises could be viable so long as the processing equipment was appropriate and

affordable and the owners were equipped with necessary technical knowledge. They recommended

organising a technical study visit to explore these issues in more detail, with the focus on identifying

and documenting the production, processing and marketing of medicinal plants.


The study visit enabled participants to share information about organic agriculture and visit projects

in Kenya and Uganda that illustrated the opportunities and constraints faced by this subsector and its

potential in ACP development. Access to lucrative markets is constrained by regulatory frameworks

for certification and standards in developed countries and by the lack of them in most ACP countries.

The development of internationally recognised organic standards and certification systems should be

a government-led process within the framework of strong policies and programmes.

The production and processing of medicinal plants represents a particularly promising opportunity.

ACP countries need to invest in medicinal plants research, production and processing and to ensure

that the development of such enterprises benefits local owners and communities.

The participants considered the study visit to have been successful, enabling them to explore issues in

organic agriculture in detail and to assess the subsector’s role in the intensification of agricultural

production against the backdrop of the diminishing size of landholdings. The study visit programme

was tight, with little rest time, and the participants recommended that future visits should allow more

time for rest and for interaction with farmers.




ABLH Association for Better Land Husbandry

ACP African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States

ADP Agricultural Development Programme

AGRINAT Agriculteurs naturalistes

AZTREC Association of Zimbabwe Traditional Ecologists

BAC Baraka Agricultural College

BBC Bunyangabo Beekeeping Community

CBO community-based organisation

CDE Centre for the Development of Enterprise

COLEACP Liaison Committee for Europe, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific

COMESA Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa

CSARD Community Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development

CTA Technical Centre for Agricultural a


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