The inaugural networking workshop for the BMZ-GIZ Organic Knowledge Hubs for Africa was held in SEKEM, Egypt from 2nd to 4th April 2019. The event Organized by the SEKEM Development Foundation and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development with kind support from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), was organized under the theme: “Boosting the Role and Potential of Organic Farming in Africa” to discuss the roll out and implementation of the BMZ-GIZ supported Organic Knowledge Hubs in Africa. The event brought together about 40 participants drawn from GIZ, European partners (IFOAM OI, FiBL, Naturaland, Access Agriculture), potential partners from Southern Africa and from the Ecological Organic Agriculture institutions from Eastern, Southern, Western and Northern Africa.
Among the participants were the grant winning organizations that will take the lead in the implementation of the Organic Knowledge Hubs in the different regions namely Eastern, West and Southern Africa. Biovision Africa Trust was feted as the host and lead organization for the Eastern Africa region which will operate the regional hub in Uganda with sub hubs in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Speaking at the workshop, the Executive Director of BvAT, Dr. David Amudavi thanked BMZ-GIZ for their support and noted that the Organic Hubs in Africa is a timely project that will go a long way in the growth of organic farming in Africa working and complimenting the EOA Initiative. BMZ was represented by among others the Senior Policy Advisor, Dr. Bjorn Niere and Advisory Council members while GIZ by Dorith Von Behaim, the Project Manager-Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture.
The Southern Africa hub will be hosted and operated by a consortium of partners among them Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, Zambia, while the Western Africa hub will be hosted in Senegal by an organization to be determined soon. SEKEM has been identified as the BMZ-GIZ partner for the Northern Africa Hub.
The main objectives of the workshop were:
- Participants get to know the institutions working on organic agriculture in different African regions and become well-aware of the various institutional characteristics, visions and strategies.
- Participants build a relationship of trust with each other and realize where they can get support and coaching in their mission.
- Participants are aware of the challenges and bottlenecks in the implementation and dissemination of organic agriculture in Africa.
- Participants reflect on concepts and tools that are capable to support them in their mission.
First key points for possible working lines of knowledge hubs are defined. The objectives were achieved through key note addresses, presentations and group discussions. Participating institutions also took part in an information bazaar/exhibition where they shared what they do and displayed their products and services.
Dr. Amudavi shared the experience of BvAT’s Farmer Communication Programme and in particular the Infonet platform under the theme ‘African opportunities for knowledge management and decentralized learning for impact: Presentation and discussion of experiences with digital platforms.’ He also shared a success story on seed banking in Kenya and some communities have ecologically, economically, socially and culturally benefited from taking up sound organic practices. This was linked to SDG 1 and SDG 2.
Other organic institutions, programs and platforms represented at the workshop are the EOA initiative represented by the Continental Secretariat Coordinator, Alex Mutungi and the Project Manager, Venancia Wambua, the Biovision Farmer Communication Program represented by the Coordinator, Pauline Mundia who was also in charge of the BvAT Bazaar. The workshop was key in defining the design and set up of the knowledge hubs in Africa and was moderated by Markus Arbenz (Former Executive Director of IFOAM OI and member of the EOA Initiative Continental Steering Committee) and Mohammed Wageih of Heliopolis University.
Participants attending the workshop also toured the SEKEM establishment which is an organic Centre of Excellence and a social enterprise consisting of a community school, hospital and Heliopolis University.