woensdag 28 juli 2010

Zorga, Organic Rice farmers in Mongu District

On the 4th of May I started of to Zorga, the organic rice farmers in Mongu. They are a member of one of our partners the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ). I thought there office was in Mongu, but when I called again it was 15 km further in Sefula on the road to Senanga. After 6 calls where they explained me where to turn off based on my description of where I was, I managed to find them. I had a meeting with Chedrick, the chairperson; Nawa, the vice-chair; Munalula, the accountant and Yembe a committee member.

As organic rice farmers they have a major challenge: the market! The is not really a local market for organic rice. People are poor and what the cheapest food possible. Rice is not the staple food, that is Nshima (made from maize meal), so it is already a bit of luxury to spend money on rice. But the conventional rice is cheaper, because of subsidized fertilizer. So they can sell it locally, but for the same cheap price, while the organic rice gives a lower yield. There is a market for them in South Africa. But than you need to transport it in a container. To maximize the utilization of the container you need to transport 30 ton, but they only produce with all 74 members 8 ton. So they need more members to create a market, but without the access to this market no one want to start organic rice. Kind of a deadlock!

The other challenge is a lack of implements that would improve their yield in the field.

As an association they use computers for accounts, minutes of meetings and to write reports. There is no internet access, but the accountant is based in Mongu, and he can access internet and the Zorga e-mail account.

As organic farmers they need to be internationally recognized, therefore you need to be certified. This is still a completely manual process, but some of the members are trained in the use of the Oppaz Internal Control System the IICD supported. This ICS makes it easier to get internationally certified, because the information becomes digital available for both internal inspectors and external inspectors. This shortens the total time before a farmer is certified. But without the market this still does not improve the quality of live for the farmers, who are struggling. Oppaz want to help them further by building their market access capacity further, so that they are better able to access the right information and the right markets. This would provides them with better incomes and more benefits, which will attract more farmers to move from conventional rice farming with pesticides and fertilizer to organic, more natural farming.

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