Organic agriculture is a knowledge and research intensive subject, commercially driven by a global market and regulated by international standards of production. In order for West Africa to benefit fully from the economic and environmental opportunities offered, there is a need to address the significant organic agriculture skills gap that exists in the region. The “Institutional Capacity Building for Organic Agriculture in West Africa” project will establish a core West African Network for Organic Research and Training. The partners in this network will share their expertise and resources to enhance the prospects for a successful organic agriculture sector in the wider West African region.
Specifically the network partners will train graduates, farmers, extension officers and civil society organisations to develop a viable organic agriculture sector. The project partners will also facilitate and undertake research that underpins organic production, embed organic agriculture into the curriculum in West African universities and develop locally appropriate standards, regulations and technologies for West African organic production. The composition of the partnership reflects the different stages of development of organic agriculture in West Africa and deliberately includes both Francophone and Anglophone countries.
West African Network for Organic Research and Training
The project partners will together form the core of the West African Network for Organic Research and Training, centred in Abeokuta, Nigeria and supported by Coventry University, UK . The network will carry out a skills gap analysis to examine the opportunities and challenges for organic agriculture in each of the West Africa states. Through its website and activities the network will build relationships between the partners and allow them to share resources, regional experiences and knowledge. The network will also serve as a bridge between the regional partners and the international organic movement.
To facilitate the sharing of skills and to encourage best practice in organic agricultural research and teaching, the project will promote an ambitious programme of staff and research student mobility visits between partners within the region.
Workshops Addressing Specific Needs in Organic Agriculture
To expose staff from the West African partners to organic agriculture production, certification, import/export trade, marketing and research methodologies in the EU, staff from each West African partner country will visit the UK for a three-week orientation course organised by the UK partner. A three-week ‘Concepts of Organic Agriculture’ workshop in Ghana will acquaint lecturers in the agricultural and environmental science faculties of the partners with the basic principles of organic agriculture. It will include intensive class work, field trips and field work.
A two-week workshop and training session on curriculum development will be held in Nigeria. This will involve partners, participants from other HEIs and other important stakeholders, such as future employers of organic agriculture graduates, government agencies for higher education, and government agencies in the agricultural sector. An outcome of the workshop is expected to be an outline common curriculum for organic agriculture in tertiary institutions in West Africa, which will facilitate further teaching collaboration and exchanges. In addition, teaching materials including posters, slides, DVDs, and monographs will be developed. Access to markets will be a major issue in sustainability of organic agriculture in West Africa.
If there is a market pull for organic products, the sub-sector will expand. To develop the market, the issue of certification has to be resolved so that farmers can sell what they produce at premium prices. A one-week workshop in Benin will be convened to impart such skills. An output at the end of the workshop will be a set of guidelines and organic standards for West Africa.
A priority of the network will be the encouragement of collaborative organic agriculture research among the partners. Joint development and funding of research programmes will add value to current activities. Towards the end of the project, partners will convene in Sierra Leone to share organic agriculture research results and to gain skills in research methodology appropriate for organic agricultural research. It is expected that firm commitments will be made to ongoing collaborative research programmes and common long term monitoring of organic development.
Wider Benefits from Training the Trainers
By providing training in organic agriculture to existing education professionals and by assisting in the development of appropriate curriculum and teaching materials the project will allow them to deliver high quality courses in organic agriculture. Thus each country in the region will be able to produce the future teachers, researchers, producers, extension officers and policy makers needed for the organic agriculture sector. The ultimate beneficiaries of these efforts will be the farmers whose livelihoods will improve thanks to the reduction of production costs, the increase in agricultural yields, and premium prices for organic produce. In the long term there will also be environmental benefits as organic agriculture refrains from application of synthetic agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, and promotes safe and sustainable technologies.
|Project Coordinator||Coventry University, United Kingdom|
28/12/2008 to 27/12/2011
|EU Co-funding||EUR 494.411,00|
Prof. Phil Harris
Faculty of Business,
Environment and Society
Tel: 0044 24 7688 8483