, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 6 – Local certification firm AfriCert has been selected as the sole certification body for Sustainable Agriculture Network/Rain Forest Alliance (SAN/RA) standards in Africa, opening up access to international specialty and niche markets for agricultural products by requiring farmers to adopt and implement sustainable farming practices.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Romano Kiome announced that they will be dividing the agriculture sector into three major bodies as they implement reforms to create one-stop shops to help all stakeholders in the sector know where to go for their inquiries and to ease the responsibilities of the Headquarters through more efficient organisation.
“We want to have all the regulatory under one stop shop which we will be calling Agriculture Livestock, Fisheries and Food Authority,” he revealed.
“We will be putting research under one stop shop which will be called Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation and we will expand into the counties so that the Headquarters left with mostly policy and a bit of development,” he added.
The one stop shop should be implemented by November and Kiome acknowledged that they will probably be the most comprehensive reforms in agriculture since independence.
He urged all producers to work with AfriCert so that uniform certification becomes a reality in the sector.
“As we do certification now, your body will be linking very closely with the authority so that everything you want to regulate will be found under one board,” he said.
“In terms of certification, we want to suggest that it’s better to have one stop shops because if we move towards one form of certification, it’s a good step in the right direction,” he stated.
AfriCert works in 15 African countries and in 2011 they were selected by the Sustainable Agriculture Network together with the Rainforest Alliance to participate in their accreditation pilot program.
They went through the assessment process successfully culminating on June 1st when they officially became authorised to carry out certifications as an accredited company by the International Organic Accreditation Services.
“Our expertise is the reason that in 2006, when the Rainforest Alliance was looking for an accredited company with a niche in certification of agriculture products and systems in East Africa to carry out certification on the SAN standard, it was introduced to AfriCert as the leader in the agriculture certification market and here began our long relationship which culminated in this accreditation” AfriCert Managing Director Ruth Nyagah explained.
The Rainforest Alliance is an international organization committed to improving the lives of farmers and farm workers in the developing world and their seal can be found on an array of farm goods such as coffee, bananas, flowers and ferns — as well as timber, paper and other forest-derived products.
In an effort to encourage farmers to participate in the production of sustainable products, leading brands and retail chains both in the United States and Europe, such as McDonald’s, Chiquita, Mars, Wal-Mart and Kraft are moving towards sourcing most of their products as sustainable.
This is aimed at giving producers an opportunity to look at alternative markets and through this, producers in Kenya and other African countries have a chance to adopt their production.
“The Rainforest Alliance certification gives farmers an incentive to farm through the three pillars of sustainability — Environmental Protection, Social Equity and Economic Viability,” SAN Vice President Elsa Escobar noted.
“By choosing Rainforest Alliance Certified products, consumers can support farmers and farm workers worldwide who are working to improve their livelihoods and those of their families while protecting their planet” she explained.
Escobar added that farmers who work with the Rainforest Alliance also learn to increase productivity and control costs, often producing higher quality crops that can earn a better market price.
“Rainforest Alliance certification is a win-win for all partners in the supply chain,” he asserted.
“The farmers usually get a better price for their produce, there’s less risk of quality problems at the exporter/importer level and the end seller is better assured of receiving the quality contracted for,” he emphasised.