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Ahmad Saleh has never dreamed of being a farmer like his parents, but when life brought him back to the rice paddy fields, he did so with a mission, ‘Our earth is sick and it’s our mission to save it’.

Saleh started what is to become one of the biggest organic farms in Central Java, the Sawangan Organic Farmers Association (GATOS), spanning across 425 hectares of land and over 2 000 members, ‘As farmers, we have been taught to use chemicals and pesticides to increase production’, he said. ‘But if we continue this practice, we may have nothing to leave our kids and grandkids’.

The association received its organic certification in 2012 and dreamed of entering the ASEAN market, ‘We currently produce over 7 500 tonnes of rice a year’, Saleh said. ‘Entering the regional market is our lifelong dream’.


The EU, through the ARISE+programme has assisted and supported the ASEAN Experts Group on Organics Agriculture (EWG-OA) in the development of a Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Organic Agriculture Products (MRAOAP). The Mutual Recognition Arrangement will provide credibility to qualified producers, like GATOS and provide them with market access across ASEAN.

Also drafted in parallel with the MRA-OAP is the ASEAN Certification Scheme for Organic Agriculture. The scheme will provide a credible and transparent basis for certification of Organic Agriculture based on international practices.

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