I participated in the Organic Agriculture Development Program (OAD), one of the advanced international training programs of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Jointly organized by Grolink Sweden and Organic Alliance Malaysia, it was a full time training program, which took place between 21 to 31 May, 2011 in Federal Hotel, central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was in fact a follow up program, the previous phases were conducted in Sweden and Thailand. The overarching objective of the training program was to build and enhance participant’s capability as actors for the development of the organic agriculture in their place of work and country. The follow up program mainly included; updates of sector development scenarios at global and regional levels, study visits and case studies of selected development projects in market development; organizing production; certification; sector organizing, policy and advocacy. Similarly consultations were held between participants and course tutors for individual Development Plans.
The training was based on an interactive participatory approach. Contents were covered through seminars, lectures, small group discussions, study visits to organic sector initiatives and interaction with organic sector actors in the country. The participants were represented from 13 nations, mainly from Asian countries. During the training course, one of the exposure visits was held to Cameron Highlands, a 4 hour drive by coach to the west from Kuala Lumpur. Cameron highland is one of the most beautiful highlands in Malaysia and is premier highland vegetable producing area. We visited some of the organic farms where slopes are intensively farmed mainly with vegetables crops, flowers and teas. The land rented by the farmers from the state government has been under cultivation for the last 20 years. Although organic standards do not permit plastic to be used as mulch in the farming system, farmers in this slope have been practicing plastic sheet as soil covers to minimize heavy erosion from rain water and also for controlling weeds so that the land productivity could be maintained and labor cost reduced. In a cursory glance the slopes look like a combination of white and green revolution. The intensive cultivation of the slope using organic inputs particularly Bokashi fertilizers and organic pest control measures was inspiring. An interaction with Nepalese youths who were working as farm labors in these organic farms was a good coincidence.
Further we had an exciting visit to various organic shops, restaurants and icons of Kuala Lumpur city and also to other places of interest coinciding with different events. The welcoming dinner was hosted in resort restaurant at Firefly Park Resort Bukit Belimbing in Kuala Selangor. The park is the only place in this region where one can witness the sight of millions of fireflies flashing in synchrony, often referred to as the “Eighth wonder of the World”. It seems to be one of the ‘must visit’ places of interest in Malaysia. Following the dinner, the participants were taken on a boat ride along the Selangor river, where the fireflies inhabit around the branches of “Berembang” trees along the mangrove forest. We saw thousands of fireflies grouped together with flashing lights on trees, the trees looked like as they were Christmas trees.
The training program came to the end and on 31st May eve, we had a concluding event together with a wonderful farewell dinner party .
Overall, I have greatly benefited from the training program. I am truly thankful to the organizing team and the sponsering organization the SIDA, and last but not least to the untiring, patient and hard working facilitators for their service and genorosity they have showed towards me. The OAD program was a success in many sense: I made new friends and renewed old friendships. The exchange of sector development scenario, experiences, insights and network being built have been an asset to boost or nurture the organic movement ahead in my country. I enjoyed Malyasian food, unique culture, and many wonders and returned home with colourful memories of Malaysia.
The author is the Chairman of Organic World and Fair Future (OWF) Pvt. Limited, Kathmandu, Nepal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org