14 certification experts from six Pacific island countries are convening at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji, to be trained as Organic Inspectors. This training plays a critical role in equipping the region with the necessary expertise and competencies required for conducting inspections of farms intended for 3rd Party Certification.
This training is part of the EU-funded ‘Safe Agricultural trade Facilitation through Economic integration in the Pacific’ (SAFE Pacific) project organised by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community [POETCom], and implemented through SPC’s Land Resources Division (LRD), aims to support Pacific Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises with capacity building and increased access to markets.
Mr. Jim Pierce, the Coordinator for POETCom, shared that, Organic certification for export markets is expensive. Establishing a regional pool of Pacific Islander Organic inspectors will bring these costs down significantly, and local Inspectors will do a better job since they are familiar with local farming practices”.
This training will prepare qualified individuals to engage as “Provisional” Inspectors with organic certification bodies who will, in turn, mentor the Provisional Inspectors through their Witness and Shadow Audit requirements until they become fully qualified Lead Organic Inspectors. At the end of the course, trainees will have knowledge of Lead Auditor techniques, the International Organic Industry, certification, and standards/regulations.
Mr Sunil Kumar, who was recently trained in the Ecocert Auditor training programme in 2023, spoke at the training, “The growing consciousness around the world about environmental sustainability and health advantages of organic farming has spurred a rise in demand for organic goods. This surge has highlighted the need for trained experts capable of evaluating and certifying the organic quality of agricultural produce. Consequently, training as an organic auditor has emerged as a compelling pathway for individuals like myself who are passionate about aiding the sustainable agriculture revolution and safeguarding the authentic integrity of our organic products.”
The Pacific region holds vast potential for organic agriculture, boasting rich biodiversity, fertile soil, and an inherent focus on sustainability. However, organic farmers and processors have often struggled with the complexities of obtaining 3rd Party Organic Certification, a prerequisite for accessing international markets. This training programme addresses these challenges by training local inspectors to do the work in their countries, precluding the need to fly in Inspectors from abroad.
POETCom is the peak body for the organic movement in the Pacific region. It is a membership organization of farmers' associations, farmer support organisations, NGOs, the private sector, and research institutions working with governments across the Pacific. POETCom is hosted by the Land Resources Division (LRD) of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Suva, Fiji.
POETCom is breaking new ground in the Organic movement with a gender-inclusive, people-centred approach that marks an important milestone in gender mainstreaming into the organic agriculture sector in the Pacific.