Productivity and Growth in Organic Value-chains (ProGrOV)

Project summary

The growing organic sector is an example of private/market led development. The rationale for the project is that organic agriculture has the potential to improve yields and natural resource management and link farmers to high value markets for improved rural livelihood.
The project will investigate potentials and develop methods for improving productivity, growth and sustainable development in existing organic value chains in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania through research addressing development of agro-ecological methods, governance and management of organic value-chains, and capacity development in participatory and interdisciplinary approaches. The project is a collaboration between Universities in Denmark, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania as well as with the national organic organizations from the three countries NOGAMU, KOAN and TOAM. The project will build capacity for development of the organic agriculture based value chains through research and dissemination and will train a number of young researchers in applying discipline oriented methods in an agro-ecosystem and value chain framework. The research in ProGrOV will include nine PhD students and six MSc students enrolled at the African Universities and provided with additional external supervision by Danish researchers from Aarhus University and University of Copenhagen. The studies will focus on three different types of value chains, namely organic export chains; organic chains for the domestic high value market; and organic value chains aiming at the tourism sector.



Project completion report:
ProGrOV has strengthened the research-based knowledge for supporting increased productivity and sustainable growth in organic production and value chains, and built capacity for future development of organic agriculture based value chain. 9 PhD and 10 MSc students have investigated aspects of organic value chains and their governance.

There has been focus on pest management, soil fertility management, integration of livestock in crop production systems, and market structure and governance of domestic or export organic value chains. Pineapple is an important crop for export as well as for the domestic market in Uganda and has therefore been the value chain in focus in Uganda, while vegetable value chains have been the main focus in Kenya and Tanzania. Farming systems, productions and value chains have been analyzed, main challenges identified, scientific evidence of innovative agroecological practices provided. In Tanzania, the use of mainly pine needles as mulch in tomatoes and sweet pepper has reduced weeds and pest insects with lower labor input and resulted in increased yields, as well as higher quality of the tomatoes. In Uganda, the reduction of the pest mealy bug in pineapples has been scientifically demonstrated in banana-pineapple intercropping as well as the reductive effects of coffee husk (originally used for fertilization) on mealy bug. Higher total yields in maize and tomato crops when applying farm manure in combination with rock phosphate and the further increase of yields when intercropped with chickpea have been scientifically demonstrated in Kenya. Challenges have been identified in relation to integration of livestock in the organic production – including the provision of sufficient organic feed during dry season. A process for turning pineapple residues (peel and leaves) into silage for dairy cattle was developed and tested by students in Uganda. Another challenge identified was animal health caused by parasites. Extracts of species of the plant tephrosia were in laboratory tests found to control the development of the nematode causing helminthosis in ruminants, as well as feeding silage from pineapple wastes was found to reduce faecal egg count of helminthes. Across the studies of markets and value chains, the focus has been on identifying market potentials and ways to reduce the cost of the various transactions involved in connecting producers with consumers. Through several surveys addressing consumers and value chain actors, the potential for development and reducing risks/costs in organic value chains have been established and recommendations provided for creating better relations and trust in organic value chains, for example, via improved written contracts, participatory guarantee systems (PGS), information and awareness raising. Agroecological farming is knowledge intensive and funds for further innovation and research and collaboration between private sector and universities is needed. Likewise, political and institutional support is necessary for the development of sustainable organic value chains and food systems that can contribute to improved livelihoods and sustainable development in Africa at a more general level.

Brief popularized abstract:
In order to develop smallholder farmers’ contribution to food security in East Africa through organic farming and thereby advance their own livelihoods, it is necessary to improve farming systems and its management as well as to develop market access and governance of the organic value chains. This was the focus of the project ‘Productivity and Growth in Organic Value Chains (ProGrOV)’. The project has been a ‘first mover’ doing research in organic farming systems and value chains with a holistic and participatory approach implemented by MSc and PhD students enrolled at universities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The development of the organic sector is challenged by lack of institutional support and limited awareness or misinterpretation of organic farming and its potential for sustainable livelihood development. ProGrOV has been able to establish a platform of knowledge, research capacity and scientific evidence of new and existing organic management and farming systems and has been able to provide recommendations on agroecological methods for management of pests, soil fertility, integration of livestock and reduction of transaction costs in the chain from farmer to consumer.

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