The African Union's position on organic agriculture: what are the benefits of governance at continental level?
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Organic Agriculture (OA) has grown in prominence as an alternative to conventional agriculture especially suitable for small holder farmers on the African continent. Many leaders of organic agricultural movements on the African continent are seen lobbying for the formalised recognition of organic farming in their countries through enactment of policies that support the sector. However, most of the organic movements developed in the 1990s operated with little, if any, support from their own national governments, let alone their regional economic commissions (RECs) and the African Union. The latter high level decision makers are largely biased towards conventional agriculture which is perceived as vital for attaining food security through large scale intensified agriculture. So organic farmers on the continent receive 'rescue' support from international organisations which promote OA like the International Federation for Organic Movements (IFOAM) and some United Nations agencies, which partner with local agro ecological non-governmental organisations to impart organic farming skills to small scale farmers. The private sector which is interested in securing a constant supply of organic produce has been equally influential in training and extension services for African farmers. All these developments have yielded positive results to the extent that more than 1 million hectares of land in Africa comprise certified organic agriculture. Despite the 'absence' of African governments' and AU's support in the initial phases of OA on the continent, one can applaud the fact that the lever on high level support is beginning to turn. The words of the AU's commissioner for agriculture, Tumusiime Peace, signify the adoption of organic farming in the official agriculture 'policy-scape' of the AU which has largely been shaped by conventional agriculture.