The Pacific Green Business Centre’s focus in this area supports the FAO’s key principles for sustainability in food and agriculture, i.e.
Principle 1. Improving efficiency in the use of resources is crucial to sustainable agriculture
Principle 2. Sustainability requires direct action to conserve, protect and enhance natural resources
Principle 3. Agriculture that fails to protect and improve rural livelihoods, equity and social well-being is unsustainable
Principle 4. Enhanced resilience of people, communities and ecosystems is key to sustainable agriculture
Principle 5. Sustainable food and agriculture requires responsible and effective governance mechanisms
Reliance on chemicals to grow our plants and vegetables is harmful to both the environment and our health. The organic movement is making important inroads in the Pacific and there is much our farmers can do to shift to greener production. For a farmer or manufacturer to be able to label a product as “organic”, they must first be certified. Organic farming practices use organic pesticide and herbicide methods. When you choose organic food, you know it is free from:
- Chemical pesticides – pesticides have been linked to numerous disorders, diseases and cancers in both children and adults
- Chemical herbicides – petroleum based herbicides, in particular, can disrupt the natural growth of the plant and have serious health effects
- Chemical fertilisers – using chemical fertilisers can lead to groundwater contamination and cause some forms of cancer in people
- Genetically-modified organisms – GMOs are still not very well tested and therefore the health effects are largely unknown
- Artificial additives – artificial flavours, colors and preservatives contribute to a number of adverse health effects
- Hormones and antibiotics – when animals are raised with hormones and antibiotics, traces can stay in the meat when eaten
- Other unnatural practices – organic food isn’t put through processes such as irradiation that are not natural during growth
Some great examples of organic production from the Pacific are:
FRIEND Products. The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development has a number of organic products on the market including superfoods and teas.
Bula Coffee is Fiji’s organic coffee. Bula coffee employs 1000 coffee nut pickers doing organic certification with Bula Coffee in Fiji using a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands was established in 2004 with the goal of empowering rural communities through the production and export of Certified Virgin Coconut Oil. Its partner Kokonut Pacific in Australia markets and distributes its product throughout Australia, Europe and North America.
Ranadi Plantations, located in Deuba is Fiji’s largest organic ginger farm and winner of the 2016 GlobalGAP award. It is committed to provide its customers with the best tasting ginger in the world, implementing only the highest quality organic and sustainable farming methods. It also produces a wide range of fruit, legumes and spices including lemongrass, lime, lemon, coconut, papaya, cacao, turmeric, wild Fijian ginger, mucuna, vanilla and cinnamon.
The Pacific, being composed of many islands, is also taking a whole of islands approach to organics. Some of the islands that have already taken this step are:
Cicia Island in the Lau Group of islands in Fiji, was declared organic in 2013, the first whole island in the Pacific to achieve this certification. The island had stopped using chemicals for eight years before achieving this milestone.
Matuku Island also in the Lau Group in Fiji, under the brand name Loving islands was only recently certified organic. Loving Islands seeks to empower Pacific island communities by providing market-driven services that alleviate poverty, promote gender income equality, foster inclusive local governance capabilities, and increase business confidence and climate change resilience.
Abaiang in Kiribati declared itself fully organic in 2013. Kiribati Organic Producers (KOP) helps communities develop organic products from coconut trees, and provide niche markets, so they are healthier, more productive and self-sufficient. Their products include virgin coconut oil (for cooking, cosmetics and medicine), coconut sap sugar, and coconut syrup. Sales of virgin coconut oil alone go to over 50 outlets. Vegetables, fruit and most of the coconut sugar head to South Tarawa, while there is some interest from overseas buyers for the coconut sugar.
Ha’apai Islands (Tonga). The Ha’apai group is comprised of 62 islands of which 17 are inhabited with a population of about 8,000 in 30 villages. The group is actively working to become fully organic in its agricultural produce.
The Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community
Much of the work in organic agriculture is being supported or promoted by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom). This is a project of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) supported by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
POETCom also administers a Pacific Organic Certification Scheme “Organic Pasifika”. Products bearing the “Organic Pasifika” mark are certified to the Pacific Organic Standard by an internationally accredited and POETCom approved certifying body or through a robust, POETCom registered Participatory Guarantee System.
The aims of this standard are:
- to ensure that sustainable production systems are developed and maintained
- to protect consumers against deception and fraud in the marketplace and against unsubstantiated claims
- to protect producers of organic produce against misrepresentation of other agricultural produce as organic
- to ensure that all stages of production, processing, storage, transport and marketing are subject to inspection and comply with this standard
- to assist in informing consumers about the character of organic production in the Pacific.
For queries or to contribute to this section of the Pacific Green Business Centre please email Mark Borg