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Agriculture and rural development

"Support for organic farming"

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António Realinho (LEADER Raia Centro-Sul, Portugal)

Convinced that organic farming was an interesting possibility for diversification, 60 farmers in Beira Interior (central-east Portugal) created in 1995 the association ARAB ("Associação Regional de Agricultores Biológicos" / Regional Association of Organic Farmers). The productions involved are very diversified: almonds, cherries, table grapes, but also olive oil and preserved olives, figs, cereals and horticultural productions.

The aims of the association are to promote the development of organic farming (notably by organising meetings, symposiums and conferences) and to provide producers with technical assistance for the production, marketing, promotion and presentation of products.

The Raia Centro-Sul LEADER group has helped implement the following actions:

  • creation of a mobile stand in order to facilitate promotional operations and ARAB's participation in specialised fairs (national and international);
  • publication of a journal (15 000 copies intended for farmers, technicians, schools, etc.) and a brochure aimed to promote a better knowledge of the products, to raise the awareness of the entire population of organic production methods, to opt for environmentally responsible packaging, etc.;
  • annual organisation of a national meeting of organic farmers: thus, the second "Encontro Nacional de Agricultores Biológicos", which was held on 17 and 18 May 1997, was attended by about 300 people from Portugal but also from Spain. Among the main topics of discussion were the difficulties encountered by the sector: need to adapt programmes of assistance and certification, need for a better collective organisation, etc.

In the short term, organic farming should represent a very interesting prospect for the development of rural areas: in addition to ensuring an improvement in public health and the preservation of the environment, it helps maintain the rural population, because it is more labour intensive than conventional farming.

To export more, Portugal's agriculture must move towards a production of better quality. Products certified "organic" are a major step in this direction.

source: LEADER Magazine nr.15 - Summer 1997

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