At the end of November 2012, the West African Network for Organic Agriculture Research and Training (WANOART) held a full-week workshop on organic certification in Benin. The event was funded by the European Union through a project managed by Coventry University in the UK, and by SSNC (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) through a project managed by IFOAM. It gathered 28 participants, including scientists, farmers, national and international NGO representatives and other stakeholders from 9 countries (Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, Germany, Senegal and UK) eager to learn more about and discuss the topic.
Parti cipants of the workshop shared information about the status of development of organic agriculture in their countries, and about their main challenges to develop the sector. IFOAM was also represented at the workshop, by Joelle Katto-Andrighetto, Value Chain Manager, who provided information on Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and their challenges and opportunities, as well as those of third party certification. Participants had extensive group work focused on the steps needed for the development and promotion of PGS in the West Africa region. Finally, participants worked on the detailed development of a regional curriculum for a university program on organic agriculture.
The workshop concluded a 3-year project centered on regional cooperation in higher education. It was amazing to see how the participants, representing the newly formed WANOART network, could communicate in both French and English (the region has both Francophone and Anglophone countries) to adva nce regional priorities. PGS also generated a lot of enthusiasm and ideas for future development of regional organic marketing to complement export activities and give consumers access to organic products within the region.