Voluntary Sustainability Standards in East Africa (September 2022) – Burundi


Agricultural Sustainability Standards demonstrate the potential to advance East Africa’s Policy Objectives

Voluntary standards that guide farmers to adopt more sustainable practices could help grow agricultural production and trade in East Africa, according to new research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) released at the AGRF 2022 Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Agriculture is an economic pillar in the region, and this week the leaders at the AGRF Summit echoed this. It is the largest employer in many countries,” said Laura Turley, a member of IISD’s State of Sustainability Initiatives project and lead author of the report.

To understand how Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) can work, IISD analyzed the key policy goals of the East African Community (EAC)—an economic bloc of seven* countries—and compared them to VSS criteria already used by staple crop producers. in the region

“Our analysis shows that by adopting sustainability standards, these farmers can increase productivity, improve intra-regional trade and build resilience to climate change,” said Turley. “Crucially, they deliver these benefits while protecting vital ecosystems, efficiently managing scarce resources, and supporting workers’ livelihoods and rights.”

“By adopting these standards, farmers in East Africa can address some of the persistent challenges they face, such as pest and disease control and crop contamination,” he said.

The report includes a number of recommendations for standard-setting bodies, as well as the EAC and its member states.

“VSS organizations need to invest in pilot projects that demonstrate the benefits of the standards and do more to increase access to certification for farmers,” said Turley. “And policy makers can act by officially recognizing these schemes, looking for synergies with technical standards and developing incentive programs and sustainable procurement policies.”

  • Read the full report: Voluntary Sustainability Standards in East Africa
  • For interview requests or more information, please contact: media@iisd.org

* This study was conducted before the Democratic Republic of Congo officially joined the East African Community in March 2022, joining Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management and a fair economy. Our work inspires better decisions and inspires meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, nonprofits and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 120 people, plus more than 150 partners and consultants, are from around the world and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa and Toronto, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.


IISD’s State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) is an international research project that aims to advance sustainable and inclusive value chains. It provides compelling, solution-oriented analysis and dialogue on voluntary sustainability standards and their potential to contribute to sustainable development outcomes.

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