A member of the Mekong Organics participated in the 4th IFOAM Asia Organic Youth Forum, March 26th – 31st, 2019 in New Taipei City, Taiwan

I would like to thank Dr. Nguyen Van Kien, the founder of Mekong Organics, who had introduced me to the 4th IFOAM Asia Organic Youth Forum. The forum had equipped an entire horizon of organic movement in Taiwan, offered great time to share and learn from other organic researchers, organic growers, private sectors and governments in Taiwan and other regions of the world.

The IFOAM Asia Organic Youth Forum was set up in 2017 by the first trainees who had met in Goesan County, South Korea in 2016 for the 1st Organic Foundation Course undertaken by the Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA), a special project of IFOAM Asia. Currently, the Organic Youth Forum consists of more than 120 youths in 16 countries in Asia. At the 4th Organic Youth Forum, it was my honor to be one of twenty-two carefully selected foreign youths to join more than 50 local youths in Taiwan for a training and exchange on the fundamentals of organic agriculture and to forge networks and alliances that will drive the development of the organic sector in Asia.

At the first day of training, I had chance to learn about history, current state, and future movement of organic agriculture (OA). Four main principles of OA were emphasized through the training:

● CARE: Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations and the environment.

● HEALTH: Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

● ECOLOGY: Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

● FAIRNESS: Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

The president of IFOAM Asia, Dr. Zhou Zejiang, showed an entire look of organic farming development from 1.0 to 3.0. In 2017, according to FiBL survey 2019, organic agricultural land reached an all-time height with 69.8 million hectares, accounting for 1.4 percent of the organic agricultural land. Australia had the largest area of organic agricultural land (35.65 million hectares), followed by Argentina and China (3.39 and 3.02 million hectares respectively). Most of the organic producers were in Asia and Africa. However, the local markets in those areas were very small, and the organic production was mainly focus for exports. There was a strong need to strengthen the local organic markets in order to ensure a sustainable development of the organic sector worldwide.

Dr. Zhou Zejiang proposed some strategies to widely develop organic farming in Asia. Farmers should not only take advantage of good natural condition, chose local crops and animal species, but also produce non-GMO products. Apart from international markets, local market should be considered importantly as well. Whoever involving in farming should keep in mind of farmers’ benefits as farmers are the bases of real organic. Moreover, government support had better to be in the forms of technology, training, organic inputs, farming tools, market exploring, organizing, etc. rather than cash only.

I got a chance to participate in the International Conference of 2019 Organic Youth Forum on March 29th, 2019. Mr. Chia-Wei Chang, Section Head, Department of Agriculture, introduced about New Taipei City Government’s Organic Farming Policies. The governments showed a high commitment to develop organic farming section in Taiwan through increasing organic value chain and global trends in sustainable agricultural products. Mr. Mathew John, Founder-Director, Keystone Foundation, shared valuable experience in order to build a Participatory Guarantee System which encouraged the development and adoption of simple and different approaches to guarantee organic produce. The forum also discussed effective ways to create diverse markets for organic products and the role of local governments & youth in organic agricultural movement.

The two last days of the trip, our group visited an organic tea plantation by a youth farmer and Eco-friendly farm in Yilan. The farm was initiated by a young man who wanted to protect a precious bird species by encouraging all the old farmers to change their farming practice into organic farming. Then I visited the process of the organic lunch program in New Taipei City (From the organic cutting factory, organic farms and introductions about the whole process). Finally, the group went to an indigenous tribe’s farm which put emphasis on the education of food and agriculture.

Written by Mr Pham Tan Dat, An Giang