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A zonal approach stimulates Madagascar’s organic sector

Production and value additions

In Madagascar, the area of land dedicated to organic farming has more than trebled since 2011

© FAO

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Organic mapping

The development of zones dedicated to organic farming in Madagascar is increasing local adoption of the technique and generating higher incomes for small-scale farmers.

Maps of Madgascar’s organic farmland are being used to identify zones where the practice could be expanded and supported with technical advice and assistance, supplies of organic seeds, and help for local farmers in obtaining certification. Once a zone is identified as organic, this serves as a starting point for intensifying and developing organic farming practices. The approach was developed by the Syndicat malgache de l’agriculture biologique (Symabio, Madagascar’s organic farming syndicate), and is being adopted by local agricultural processing companies, including Lecofruit, the Melville palm oil processing plant, Jacarandas (spices and essential oils) and Sahanala (ginger, vanilla, cashew nut, etc.).

Small-scale producers in Madagascar are increasingly converting to organic farming. For instance, while 36,000 ha were dedicated to the sustainable practice in 2011, this increased to 121,000 ha in 2018. Not only that, but exports of organic food products totalled €84 million in 2018, compared to €22 million in 2012. Organic farming is much more profitable for smallholders as production and distribution costs are lower, and sales prices are more attractive than conventional farming. “I don't need to buy inputs or expensive chemical fertilisers any more; compost is enough. And the price of an organic product is much higher than that of a conventional product,” explains Tendry Botomazava, an organic sugar cane grower in the east of the country.

In Madagascar, the area of land dedicated to organic farming has more than trebled since 2011

In Madagascar, the area of land dedicated to organic farming has more than trebled since 2011

© FAO

According to Gaëtan Etancelin, director of the Melville palm oil processing plant, which produces 1,000 t of organic oil a year, 85% of which is exported, “There is less risk for farmers in organic farming. They have a contract, which guarantees them an outlet and the sales price. Also, as their land is not chemically treated, the soil will not become depleted over the medium or long term. On the contrary, natural treatment enriches the soil.”

However, one barrier to the development of organic farming in Madagascar is the exorbitant cost of certification: at least Ar 8 million (€2,000). Symabio is therefore trying to obtain certification on behalf of cooperatives. In addition, certain external factors complicate the adoption of organic farming practices. For example, the use of toxic products to combat the invasion of locusts in the south of the country is essential, even though this could contaminate millions of hectares of land.

Symabio, which was created in 2011 and is made up of 40 organic-certified members (companies, farming cooperatives, farmers’ organisations, etc.), has defined the national regulatory framework for organic farming with the Ministry of Agriculture, and is working with the government to create a strategic national phytosanitary plan incorporating the requirements of organic farming. While Madagascar is already a world leader in the organic vanilla, prawn and palm oil sectors, adoption of new legislation should allow scaling of the practice beyond the country’s 35,000 organic producers.

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