Organic agriculture, geographic indications and agrotourism – Learning from Italy’s experiences

With support from IFAD, the Government of São Tomé & Principe has promoted public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction.  These efforts produced partnerships with four companies: KAOKA (France), which imports organic cocoa; Cafédirect (UK), which imports Fairtrade certified cocoa; Hom&Ter/Agrisud International (France), which imports organic pepper; and Malongo (France), which imports organic coffee. In addition, more than 5,500 smallholders are involved in these partnerships. In this context geographic indications are being set up for cocoa, coffee and pepper. Efforts are also being taken to develop sustainable agro-tourism packages linked to the three value chains.

Visit to local market in Bedonia @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
A selected group of people involved in the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project in Sao Tome and Principe, who were in Italy for EXPO Milano 2015, participated in a study tour to learn from Italy’s experiences with organic agriculture, geographic indications and agro-tourism. Italy presents a success story in organic fruit and vegetable production, taking advantage of favourable climate and agronomic conditions and close geographic access to major markets. Organic farming growth in Italy is rapid and the domestic organic market is taking off. The Sao Tome delegation visited an organic horticulture farm and an apricot farm in Bedonia (Emilia Romagna) and exchanged experiences with the producers on issues related to certification and market access. Further, they visited the local market where the organic produce is being sold and learned about local economic development.

Visit to company making parmigiano reggiano cheese
Geographic Indication (GI) labelling is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a label must identify a product as originating from a given place. GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products. Goods carrying the GI designation benefit from special protection rights. A GI right entitles those who possess it to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. Italy is very much on the forefront of setting up geographic indications. Some of the most famous ones areParmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham. The Sao Tome delegation visited a company making parmigiano reggiano and another one making prosciutto di Parma and talked about the challenges of effectively managing a GI, the long-term benefits for those directly involved and its impact on the territory it refers to.

Visit to local mushroom fair @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
Agrotourism is the form of tourism which capitalizes on rural culture as a tourist attraction. It is similar to ecotourism except that its primary appeal is not the natural landscape but a cultural landscape. If the attractions on offer to tourists contribute to improving the income of the regional population, agrotourism can promote regional development. To ensure that it also helps to conserve diversity, the rural population itself must have recognized agrobiodiversity as valuable and worthy of protection. Agrotourism is very much rooted in Italy and is formally regulated by state law since 1985. The Sao Tome delegation visited a so-called agriturismo in Bedonia and a local mushroom fair in Borgotaro. They also exchanged with the local tourism office on how to integrate tourism, local identity and local economy.