This report is the first of five in a feature series on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and their application to Africa. GAP is a product of many institutions sponsoring agricultural interests, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) European supermarket chains and many African governments. GAP is used to increase the value of farm products and to expand markets for farmers.
A UN food production expert says Good Agricultural Practices are increasing overall farmer productivity and are becoming the standard requirement for access to foreign markets.
Anne-Sophie Poisot is the Good Agricultural Practices program officer for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In describing GAP’s relevance for Africa, she says there are four broad principals: 1) products should be good quality and safe to consume; 2) products should be economically profitable for the farmer; 3) products should be developed in a way that’s safe for the environment; and 4) products should be grown in a way that protects the well-being and safety of farmers and farm workers.
Poisot says for a long time researchers and extension services provided advice to farmers on good principles of farming, but in the last eight years or so, supermarkets formulated GAP codes that have expanded to exporters and governments as a uniform guideline that “helps improve agricultural production on the environmental aspects, safety aspects, economic aspects, so there are a number of benefits which are associated with their implementation.”
Poisot says the GAP practices vary from region to region because “it’s impossible for good practices to be the same everywhere.” But she says universal principals apply, such as “mind your soil, don’t waste water, avoid unnecessary use of toxic pesticides and avoid contamination of products by pollutants, chemicals or bacteria, etc.”
CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY
Poisot says GAP provides new opportunities for farmers in Africa but there are challenges “because this multiplication of codes required by retailers in Europe has generated new [export] barriers for smallholders from Africa.” She says the codes were designed for developed countries, “so a lot of adaptation is needed to interpret those principals and translate them into local realities.”
Poisot says GAP codes require certification that can be quite costly because of fees and required investments. She says that’s why FAO, donors and other international agencies have established programs to support small farming efforts. She says organizations like FAO help governments, exporters and farmers work together to decide on the best strategies. Poisot says, “I think that’s the most important thing we can do.”