Page 1

2 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 3

Jane Griffiths is a television producer, writer, artist and traveller, who has grown organic

Jane has now brought out a range of 100% natural skin care products for gardeners. “What we put on our skins is as important as what we eat. When I started growing my own organic vegetables and herbs, it was a natural step to experiment with making my own unguents, lotions and potions using 100% natural ingredients, so I would know exactly what I was putting on my skin. Mom’s old double boiler was hauled out from the back of the cupboard and put to good use melting beeswax and shea butter. Abundant herb harvests were chopped, macerated, dried, steeped and spread and made into everything from delicious body creams to face balms. This has now led to me developing a range of 100% natural body products.”

Using beeswax, shea butter, oils and herbs, the products are hand-made by the Angel Factory in the small Free State town of Lindley. The products are packaged in glass or recyclable screw-top aluminium tins. The eyecatching label designs are mesmerising mandalas of the herbs in the products.

vegetables and herbs in

The range includes a Hand Scrub and a Hand Balm specifically formulated to clean and moisturise grubby gardening hands. There is also a Green Goodness Balm “for eina gardening stings, rashes, blisters and bumps”, a Muscle Balm” for achey, painey hardworking muscles” and a Wrinkle & Crinkle Balm “for outdoor skins to smooth wrinkles away.”

green footsteps.

An all-natural SPF22 Sun Screen, a Skin Soothing Balm and an Anti-Bug Body Spray complete the range.


her Johannesburg garden for more than twenty years. Her best-selling book, Jane’s Delicious Garden, led to a vegetable revolution in South Africa, with thousands of people now following in Jane’s

She has since written four more books which continue to be an inspiration for thousands of South Africans.


Editor’s Note Welcome to the first edition of SAOSO Essentials. SAOSO Essentials is a new quarterly magazine distributed for free to all SAOSO members, www.saosoessentials.co.za

organic farmers, organic markets and selected organic retail outlets within South Africa.

Published by SA NICHE PUBLISHERS Pty Ltd

Each issue is meant to inspire, educate, and advocate for a cause we care about. We trust SAOSO Essentials will be entertaining and informative, at times contrary, but above all useful. Inside you’ll find a mix of news, features and regular columns and a wide range of organic related topics.

+27 21 422 1719 sales@saosoessentials.co.za Office 800, 8th Floor 47 Strand Street, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa Editor

Stefan Kemp

Design and layout

Sarah Scott


Candice Nel


Karen Reid

Sales Manager

Gregory Van Der Zandt


Letta Nkomo Colleen La Goice Belinda Erasmus


Paarl Media


Jane Griffiths Gavin Heron Alan Rosenberg Konrad Hauptfleisch

All rights reserved No part of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without

There are many more informative articles to come in the following editions of SAOSO Essentials. Readers are invited to visit our website, www.saosoessentials.co.za, and download the SAOSO Essentials Mobile App - a platform that will keep the app user up to date with special offers, upcoming events, product launches or industry related news. Don’t lose touch! You can follow SAOSO Essentials on twitter. com/EssentialsSaoso, and like us on facebook, facebook.com/ saosoessentials or sign up for our electronic newsletter at www. saosoessentials.co.za We welcome readers and potential advertisers to contact us with any queries, feedback or if you want to find out about available advertising opportunities. In addition to the Essentials Magazine, we are also working on the Organics GO TO Handbook 2020 - a first in South Africa! We would like to thank all the advertisers that have signed up to date, and invite all interested advertisers to contact us before end of January 2020 to reserve their spot. The handbook will be launched in February 2020 and distributed with the Essentials Magazine Issue 2.

Disclaimer: Please note that advertising in SAOSO Essentials does not


infer that the products offered for sale are necessarily certified organic.

Stefan Kemp | Editor | stefan@saosoessentials.co.za

the written consent of the publisher and copyright owners as featured

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 5

4 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

S AO S O E S S E N T I A L S saosoessentials HANDBOOK 2020






Introduction, Values & Goals




Annua l Handb ook

Introduction to Organic Farming


Principle of Organic Farming


3 Frequently asked questions. Organic?


Life is full of Choices


Chemical Farming vs Organic Farming


Basic Concept of Organic Farming


An Introduction to Participatory Guarantee Systems


A DV E R TO R I A L S 17 “Can you certify me organic?” The South African’s

S u p p li

Organice rSector L is t


OFFICIAL ANNUAL DIRECTORY showcasing the preferred service and product providers within South Africa’s organic industry

CALL US TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE FOR 2020! +27 21 422 1719 • www.saosoessentials.co.za

20 Packaging for The Future 21 A leading light in all things organic and natural... 23 Green Cleaning 24 Food Waste, Composting and Soil Health 43 Professional Certification 45 Air-Assisted Electrostatic Spraying Systems

GARDENING 14 I dig no dig gardening

Visit our website and download our Mobile App!

46 Pests That Can Make Your Garden Healthier


SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 7

8 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019


Introduction, Values & Goals In order to give the background to the formation of the South African Organic Sector Organization (SAOSO) I need to go back to a time where there was no SAOSO.

I have over the last two decades, and then some, tried to align myself with people willing to collaborate on shifting consciousness and attitudes in determining a way forward in our agricultural expression. There were times when the group(s) was/were stronger and more active than at other times and obviously the constellation of the groups was also quite dynamic. The consistency and continuity came in trying to find a way forward with an agroecological/organic/ biodynamic agricultural perspective. We, those of us who knew collaboration was the way forward, wanted an organic agriculture to become mainstream, we wanted it to have recognition, to it be a part of the entire agricultural sector, we wanted it to be researched, to have a thriving extension service, we wanted it to have policy, strategy and budgets we wanted it to a part of the so to say norm. It seems we are still, in the main, campaigning for this to happen. At a point some of us became quite frustrated and a group of individuals were mandated to sign an appeal to the Dti to conduct a study under the Fund for Research into Industrial Development, Growth & Equity or ‘FRIDGE’ study into determining if in fact there is the potential for, and the existence of, an organic sector that was a part of the overall economic sector in South Africa. Mr Thierry Alban Revert was mandated to sign for this appeal on behalf of the International Consortium of Future Energies (ICOFE), the late Mr Teddy Matsitela was mandated by the National African Farmers Union (NAFU) and I was mandated by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Southern Africa (BDAASA). This was 2006. The resulting FRIDGE study document was finalised in October 2008. The report was shared with the public and a meeting was held on the 8th of May 2009 with the following heading; Value Chain Strategy for Sustainable Development and Growth of Organic Agriculture in South Africa. This is where the study was served to the sector and interested parties. There were two bodies that

were formed from this meeting one being the now South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO). SAOSO is now recognised by the South African Government as the representative organisation for the organic sector and the other body is the Organic Sector Strategy Implementation Committee or OSSIC. SAOSO as an organisation aims to lobby government and the private sector to transform this emerging sector into a leader in agriculture, social reform expressing a healthy economy. You can join SAOSO at www.saoso.org. OSSIC is an intermediate committee that was established to help government and SAOSO get to the point where the recommendations alluded to in the FRIDGE study, were to be established. Government could not be the leader in the process and the private sector could not form the essential policy. A process of collaboration was undertaken by the OSSIC & SAOSO group. OSSIC is representative of Dti, DAFF, DRDLR and CoGTA. OSSIC is the recognised platform for Government to engage with the sector for all aspects relating to the South African Organic Sector. SAOSO developed the following strategy; “Taking responsibility for food sovereignty and Sustainable Development through Organic Production and Agroecology Practices (OPAP) whilst reversing the adverse effects of climate change” SAOSO is registered as a non-profit organisation with the Department of Social Development (Registration 082-929-NPO). SAOSO is a voluntary association with membership open to farmers, consumers, companies, cooperatives and all who ascribe to the SAOSO Constitution and Strategy. SAOSO works to a Rights based agenda and honours the “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth” adopted by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Bolivia April 2010. SAOSO also honours the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations as expressed in the 7th Generation Principle.

SAOSO is a vision of hope and a call to action. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 9


The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible. Sir Albert Howard


Organic Farming 10 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Agriculture is formed from two Greek words “ager” meaning field and “cultura” meaning cultivation, it literally means field cultivation. Prior to the establishment of an agriculture which in itself was a process over time we describe our past as being one

Herewith follows a brief, simplified description of some of the events which marked the development. 9500 BCE Earliest evidence of domestic wheat 9000 BCE Earliest evidence for cattle herding 7000 BCE Cultivation of barley; animals are domesticated 6500 BCE Cattle domestication in Turkey 6000 BCE Indus Valley grows from wheat to cotton and sugar 6000 BCE Rice comes up in East Asia

of ‘hunting and gathering’. Agriculture involving the

6000 BCE Irrigation aids farming

domestication of plants and animals was developed

5500 BCE Sumerians starts organized agriculture

approximately 14,000 to 10,000 years ago, when people began altering plant and animal communities for their own benefit.

5400 BCE archaeological proof of domestic chickens 5000 BCE Africa grows rice & sorghum 4000 BCE ploughs make an appearance in Mesopotamia 4000 BCE Horses domesticated in Ukraine 3000 BCE Maize domesticated in the Americas 3000 BCE Turmeric harvested in Indus Valley 2737 BCE Tea discovered

The Fertile Crescent of Western Asia, Egypt, and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa’s Sahel, New Guinea and several regions of the Americas. Agricultural practices such as irrigation, crop rotation, fertilizers, and pesticides were developed long ago but have made the greatest stride in the past century. These developments in our recent agricultural history have led to the development in what is described as ‘conventional’ or ‘industrial’ agriculture. Archaeologists and historians agree that the rise of agriculture, along with the domestication of animals for food and labour, produced the most important transformation in human culture since the last ice age - perhaps since the control of fire.

2000 BCE First windmill in Babylon

Farming and herding led to the growth of large, settled human populations and increasing competition for productive lands, touching off organized warfare. Food surpluses freed people to specialize in crafts like textiles and supported a privileged elite in the first cities, growing numbers of bureaucrats and scribes, soldiers and kings.

1842 Grain elevator was developed

1000 BCE Sugar processing in India 500 BCE Row cultivation in China 100 Coffee originates in Arabia 200 Multi tube seed drill invented in China 700 Arab agricultural revolution 1482 Columbian exchange changes agriculture 1794 Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin 1797 Charles Newbold patented first cast-iron plough 1800 Chemical fertilizers began to be used 1831 First wheat reapers were used 1837 John Deere invents steel plough 1850 Edmund Quincy invented the corn picker 1860 Hay cutter was invented 1866 Gregor Mendel describes Mendelian inheritance 1870 Hay balers/press becomes popular 1879 Milking machine replaces hand milking 1892 First practical gasoline-powered tractor 1900 Birth of industrial agriculture 1930 First aerial photographs for agriculture 1930 First plant patent is given 1939 DDT becomes widespread 1944 ‘Green Revolution’ begins in Mexico 1972 Organic movement global starts taking root 1972 IFOAM established 1989 More farmers began to use low-input sustainable agriculture 1996 Commercial cultivation of genetically modified plants (Sourced and added to from http://www.xtimeline.com/timeline/History-of-agriculture-1)

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 11

and soil management is therefore imperative. In the study of soil fertility, the first step is to bring under review the various systems of agriculture which so far have been evolved”. Howard became very concerned about the ever increasing “over-specialization” in conventional agricultural science --”learning more and more about less and less” is what he said.

Organic agriculture could be said to be the oldest form of agriculture on earth. Of course, we would not have described it as such using modern terminology. Today we see or hear the term Organic Agriculture it has largely been associated with ‘certified organic’ agriculture. In other words, there is a system to which one needs to be compliant to certain guides and rules in order to be compliant for the status of ‘certified organic’. We could say “Certification is a system by which the conformity of products to applicable standards is determined”. The same is true for agricultural crops and the production thereof and we will discuss this point further a little later on. The background to the term agriculture in its most modern sense stems from the following. In 1944, an international campaign called the ‘Green Revolution’ was launched in Mexico with private funding from the USA. It encouraged the development of hybrid plants, chemical fertilisers, chemical controls, large-scale irrigation, and heavy mechanization in farms around the world. During the 1950s, sustainable agriculture was a topic of scientific interest, but research concentrated on developing new chemical approaches. The term was coined by William Gaud (March 1968) who was the director of the USA Agency for International Development.

Let’s have a look at some of the ‘masters’ of organic agriculture under the banner of the history of organic agriculture. Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) Although many concepts of organic farming pre-dated his work, Sir Albert Howard is commonly regarded as the father of organic agriculture. In 1943, Howard published An Agricultural Testament, in which he described the importance of observing natural systems as a guide for the maintenance of soil fertility in agricultural systems. He said that “the maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture”. In the ordinary processes of crop production fertility is steadily lost: its continuous restoration by means of manuring 12 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Lord Walter Northbourne (1896-1982), a British agronomist, academic (long time Provost of the agricultural college of London University), translator, and author of books about agriculture and comparative religion, was the first to use the word “organic” to describe a method of farming. He was a man of exceptional and comprehensive vision, who diagnosed the sickness of modern society as stemming from the severance of its organic links with the wholeness of life. Twenty-five years before Rachel Carson published her famous work Silent Spring, Lord Northbourne coined the phrase “organic farming” and helped to promote the importance of a holistic approach to the environment. His work, linking spirituality and ecology, has inspired a generation of writings from the poet/ farmer Wendell Berry to HRH Prince Charles. He warned that farming should not be “treated as a mixture of chemistry and cost accountancy, nor can it be pulled into conformity with the requirements of modern business, in which speed, cheapness, and standardizing count most. Nature will not be driven”. J.I. Rodale Jerome Irving Rodale was born in New York City in 1898. He began to popularize the term and methods of organic farming, particularly to consumers through promotion of organic gardening. Rodale founded a publishing empire Rodale Press, which launched several very successful magazines (e.g. Organic Gardening, Prevention), and published many books (including some he authored) on agriculture, human health and many other topics. Rodale’s 1945 book ‘Pay Dirt’, with an introduction by Howard, introduced organic farming concepts to a wide audience. Edward Faulkner, author of the best-selling book ‘Plowman’s Folly’ (1943), was a controversial figure in his time but is now regarded as a pioneer of no-till and soil conservation practices. He challenged the technological advancement at his time about how to produce crops, declaring that plough is and has been the main enemy of soils. He assured that by leaving crop residues on the soil surface, instead of burring them at the bottom of the soil profile removed by plough, and by weathering effects, the necessary soil organic matter for the next crop would be produced. Dr William Albrecht (1886-1974) William Albrecht was a leading soil scientist who served as the head of the Agronomy Department at the University of Missouri and as the president of the Soil Science Society of America. Twenty years before the phrase ‘environmental concern’ crept into the national consciousness, he was lecturing from coast to coast on the broad topic of agricultural ecology. (C. Edmund Marshall, In Memoriam, ‘Plant and Soil’ vol 48.).

Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) In the early 1920s, Steiner, an Austrian Doctor of Philosophy, gave a series of lectures to a group of concerned farmers on the “Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture” which inspired the development of Biodynamic agriculture. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old, instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced what are known as Biodynamic Preparations. Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. Preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. The farm is seen as a living organism with the different enterprises and streams of agriculture representing the different organs. Sir Robert McCarrison (1878 –1960) was a pioneering physician and nutritionist who is credited with being the first scientist to experimentally demonstrate the effect of dietary deficiencies upon animal tissues and organs. McCarrison concluded that many common diseases increasingly prevalent in industrial societies were caused by diets made defective by extensive food processing, and the use of chemical additives. He deplored the universal consumption in Britain and America of refined white flour and the substitution of canned, preserved and artificially sweetened products for fresh natural food. Franklin Hiram King (1848–1911) was an American agricultural scientist. King served as a professor of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1888 until 1902. Interested in a wide range of subjects throughout his career, King made major contributions during these years in research and teaching that dealt with applications of physics to agriculture. He has been called the father of soil physics. Perhaps his most famous book is entitled ‘Farmers of Forty Centuries’. There are of course so many other names not mentioned who had immense influence on what has become Organic Agriculture.

We see that the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements IFOAM define organic agriculture as “Organic Agriculture is a LIVING production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people, whilst reversing the adverse effects of climate change. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of synthetic inputs and pesticides with adverse health, environmental and social effects. Organic forms of Agriculture combine tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.” “The world over, the quality assurance requirements of organic food production are becoming more exacting, increasingly specific guidelines and standards are being introduced. Throughout the world there are many different sets of national legislation governing organic production. Compliance with all these standards is becoming a key criterion to being able to market produce”. (Naturland 2008) “It is imperative that small operators are not marginalized and unduly excluded from the organic sector due to factors beyond their control. Standards must allow for local equivalence and certification systems must be innovative and cost efficient enough to address smallholders’ situation worldwide, particularly in developing countries.” (IFOAM 2008) South Africa has its own Organic Production Standards which are in the IFOAM Family of Standards.

The soil is the ‘creative material’ of most of the basic needs of life. Creation starts with a handful of dust. Dr. William A. Abrecht

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 13


I dig no dig gardening CREDIT: Text: Jane Griffiths. Photographs: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton. RESOURCES: Jane’s Delicious Garden. Jane Griffiths. Sunbird Publishers www.janesdeliciousgarden.com

Jane Griffiths shares her tips on growing organically People often ask me: “What does organic actually mean?” It has become one of those buzz words that marketers have jumped on and everything is now ‘organic’ or ‘green’. A similar thing happened to the word ‘virgin” after the growth in popularity of extra virgin olive oil - I even saw a label on a blanket that said “100% Virgin acrylic!”

What is Organic? So what does organic mean for us as home gardeners, wanting to grow some of our own food? Organic gardening is nothing new – in fact it is a very old way of gardening. It is the way all farming and gardening was before the advent of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. You might think that gardening organically just means replacing chemical pesticides and fertilisers with organic ones. In my view, there is much more to it than that. Organic gardening is a natural, holistic and common sense approach to gardening. It is more of a philosophy of gardening than a style. Organic gardeners see our gardens as part of a natural cycle, starting with the soil and including the water supply, people, wildlife and insects. Our aim is to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimise and replenish the resources that our gardens consume. An organic gardener will rather recycle an old fence to create raised beds than buy any new material. By going the organic route, we are going the route of nature and, if we observe nature, we see that it is not tidy with precise edges and neatly swept surfaces. What we are aiming for in our gardens is to invite nature to do what she does best. Healthy soil equals healthy plants Organic gardening all starts with the soil. Think of your plants as a mirror of the soil in which they’re growing: healthy, nutrient-rich

14 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

soil = healthy, strong plants = more resistance to disease and bugs. Just as a healthy body is more resistant to infections, so a healthy soil builds up the plants’ resistance to attacks. The first step to controlling diseases and insects is to cultivate healthy soil. ‘Healthy soil’ means a soil full of humus. Humus, which is broken down organic matter, is the ‘life-force’ of the soil. It provides homes for billions of organisms, such as fungi, bacteria, algae, insects and worms. In one teaspoon of healthy soil there are more than six billion microscopic organisms. Earthworms for example, leave the earth eight times richer after being digested through their intestines. Organic vegetable gardens need as much humus in the soil as possible for a number of other reasons: • • •

It acts as a sponge with extremely high absorption abilities. It retains moisture and makes many more nutrients available to plants. It improves the physical structure of soil making it moist, crumbly and aerated.

The first step to creating humus rich soil is to disturb it as little as possible. Once you’ve dug and prepared your beds, you never need to do it again. Preparing beds Vegetables are hungry feeders and most prefer rich fertile soil. When preparing new beds you should incorporate plenty of fertile compost and well-rotted manure into the soil. When digging new beds, be conscious of the organisms living in the soil layers. The ones that live near the surface are aerobic - they need oxygen - but the anaerobic ones further down don’t. If you mix them up, they will die. • • • • •

Working in small sections, remove the topsoil layer and set aside. Dig a 60 cm deep trench. Loosen and aerate the subsoil layer by repeatedly throwing a fork into it and wiggling it. Add 20 - 30 cm of well-rotted manure and compost. Mix in the lower layer of soil. Add the topsoil. The surface will be higher than the path, but raised edges will retain the soil.

If you plan to include an irrigation system, install it before you begin planting. Drip irrigation is the most water-wise efficient method of watering a vegetable garden. No Dig gardening Very early on in my gardening journey I discovered the joy of No-

Dig gardening. In many gardens it is a tradition to dig up all the beds, add compost or rotted manure and dig it in. This is done to break up and aerate compacted soil. The good news is – you can say goodbye to all that deep digging. In fact, digging up and turning over the earth is more harmful than beneficial to the soil. • • • • •

it causes dormant weed seeds to surface and germinate. it upsets the balance in soil life. destroys beneficial organisms and their homes. it causes a loss of nutrients by exposing them to air. And finally, digging leads to moisture loss.

Once you’ve dug and prepared your beds, you never need to do it again. The only time I dig deep into my garden is to remove an unwanted perennial or to harvest roots of a plant or when preparing a new bed. No Dig tips Many of you at this point will be saying; “But I need to dig – if I don’t turn over the soil it will become compacted. That’s why I dig!” The main cause of compacted soil is our own weight pressing down on it. So, the main rule for no dig gardening is to never, ever stand on the soil. To achieve this, make your garden beds just wide enough for you to reach the middle comfortably from the path. If your beds are bigger than this, place stepping-stones where necessary. With no dig gardening it helps to have an edging around the beds to retain the soil inside the beds. It is also a good idea to have permanent pathways between the beds. Maintaining soil fertility As we harvest our vegetables and herbs, we remove nutrients the plants have absorbed from the soil. These need to be replaced by regularly adding fresh organic matter (compost, manure, leaf mould and mulch) to the surface of the beds. Nature is designed to incorporate material that falls on the surface, down into the bottom layers. The organisms in the soil, rain, heat and moisture all help break it down. Earthworms come up at night and pull it down into the soil and in no time it will be converted into humus for your plants’ roots. My vegetable garden has been in the same place for more than twenty years. By continually adding organic matter, I now have soil that is more fertile than when I started. In addition to improved soil, I have fewer pest and disease problems than in the beginning.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 15

16 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019


“Can you certify me organic?” Sönke Hobbensiefken, CERES - Certification of Environmental Standards

...a question I get asked very often. The organic industry is fast growing, and many want to jump onto that bandwagon. For some it is time to change their farming system, some have changed it already or were anyway “always farming organically”. Or simply because of higher prices involved and possibly more profits to be made..

Currently there is an undersupply on the organic market in the world. The EU needs 100 times more organic citrus than what South Africa can currently supply and prices are skyrocketing. The same applies to organic wine, although the prices are difficult to differentiate. But what does “organic” even mean? The International Federation of Agricultural Organic Movements (www.IFOAM.org) has a very nice definition - but if you come to me and ask me, if I can certify you organic, then the answer is “no”. Many believe you just change to a natural farming method, read a book or two about organic farming and use some ‘organic’ substances - then you can be certified organic. No, this is not what organic certification is about. “We are so committed to organic farming, you will see when you come…” but no, we are not awarding anybody for his achievements. Unlike university and other degrees, organic certification is not to a person. Why, because organic farming and organic certification are two different entities. There is a vast variety of alternative farming methods and idealisms, and understandings, as to what should and should not be organic. “The lady who sells my vegetables at the market knows that I am farming organically, so what do I need organic certification for?” This was once brought up in a discussion. “Well, how do I, as a consumer, know that your lady knows if you even know what organic farming is?” Later it turned out that he was using cigarette extracts to fight off mites on his vegetables - a practice that was commonly used in organic farming but has been prohibited according to most organic production rules for over ten years. Organic certification is about compliance to production rules (laws) that are set by various countries as minimum requirements for farming/production methods of products, that are to be sold with the claim “organic”. Farming organically can go far beyond these rules. And while it might not be the best way of approving organic products, it is currently the only way of giving consumers assurance on the value of the product (often up to 30% more expensive), and the producers some protection against non-

competitive mass products. Grown out of a niche market, some countries now produce organic products on more than 10% of their land. And everything sold as organic in those countries, imported or locally produced, is certified against those organic production rules. For the EU it is the regulation EC834/07 with its implementation regulation EC889/08 and other regulations around imports and accreditation of certification bodies, for the US it is the National Organic Program (NOP) and in Japan specific notifications within the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) rule the organic production. South Africa does not have such regulations. The first draft standards are now over 20 years old. There is a whole history as to how the implementation of organic laws for South Africa was hindered up to now. And while South Africa holds the record for false organic certificates and frauds in this field, anything can be sold as organic. In the EU fraudulent organic claims can get you a fine of up to R500 000) and/or 3-year imprisonment. Under NOP wilful violation of certification rules can lead to a revocation of your certification with 5 years ban on organic certification with any certification body. But in South Africa, one can happily sell your eggs as organic on one of these so called “organic farmers markets” because the chicken is “so organically” running around your farm while being fed with commercial pesticide-loaded genetically modified feed. Luckily, major supermarket chains have made a ruling for themselves to only accept accredited (international) organic certifications for products they purchase as organic. This is more or less adhered to. Consumers should question these certifications. Certificates are often very easily available for review and can be checked for validity (always note expiry dates!). But other, smaller chains, don’t have these systems in place. Most organic certifications in South Africa are still done for the overseas market though. But organic certification is very expensive. Why? Because it involves a lot of people and a very bureaucratic chain of accreditations. But also an incredible amount of service throughout the year is provided to clients when it comes to changes of certifications or general understanding of the requirements. Organic certification involves a lot of paper trail. This is the only way external auditors and certification bodies can actually get an insight of the production. Organic certification and the involved audits must be done frequently - at least once a year. Additional unannounced audits are required to ensure the constant implementation of measures safeguarding organic integrity. A lot of consumer education is needed to give the general public an overview of what organic certification is all about. But it is currently the only accredited system, that gives organic products credibility. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 17


Organic Farming The Principles of Organic Agriculture were established by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in September 2005. They are aspirations guiding organic farming globally. The Principles as laid out below were approved by the General Assembly of IFOAM on September 25, 2005.

The principles are intended to “apply to agriculture in the broadest sense, including the way people tend soils, water, plants and animals in order to produce, prepare and distribute goods. They concern the way people interact with living landscapes, relate to one another and shape the legacy of future generations.� If we see the IFOAM website, we will find that there are four principles as the roots from which Organic Agriculture grows and develops. They express the contribution that Organic Agriculture can make to the world. Composed as inter-connected ethical principles to inspire the organic movement -- in its full diversity, they guide organic development of positions, programs and standards. We find the following; The Principle of Health

The General Assembly of IFOAM approved the Principles of Organic Agriculture on September 28, 2005. The principles were developed during an intensive two-year participatory process. The aim of the principles is both to inspire the organic movement and to describe the purpose of organic agriculture to the wider world. The organic sector has grown significantly in recent years. Along with that growth have come opportunities and challenges. The IFOAM General Assembly concluded that there was a need to elaborate the basic values of organic agriculture. 18 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible. This principle points out that the health of individuals and communities cannot be separated from the health of ecosystems - healthy soils produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people. Health is the wholeness and integrity of living systems. It is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being. Immunity, resilience and regeneration are key characteristics of health. The role of Organic Agriculture, whether in farming, processing, distribution, or consumption, is

to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings. In particular, organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being. In view of this it should avoid the use of fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs and food additives that may have adverse health effects. The Principle of Ecology Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. This principle roots Organic Agriculture within living ecological systems. It states that production is to be based on ecological processes, and recycling. Nourishment and well-being are achieved through the ecology of the specific production environment. For example, in the case of crops this is the living soil; for animals it is the farm ecosystem; for fish and marine organisms, the aquatic environment. Organic farming, pastoral and wild harvest systems should fit the cycles and ecological balances in nature. These cycles are universal, but their operation is site-specific. Organic management must be adapted to local conditions, ecology, culture and scale. Inputs should be reduced by reuse, recycling and efficient management of materials and energy in order to maintain and improve environmental quality and conserve resources. Organic Agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic and agricultural diversity. Those who produce, process, trade, or consume organic products should protect and benefit the common environment including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity, air and water. The Principle of Fairness Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings. This principle emphasizes that those involved in Organic Agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties - farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers. Organic Agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life and contribute to food sovereignty and reduction of poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality food and other products. This principle insists that animals should be provided with the conditions and opportunities of life that accord with their physiology, natural behaviour and well-being. Natural and environmental resources that are used for production and consumption should be managed in a way that is socially and ecologically just and should be held in trust for future generations. Fairness requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open and equitable and account for real environmental and social costs.

The Principle of Care Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment. Organic Agriculture is a living and dynamic system that responds to internal and external demands and conditions. Practitioners of Organic Agriculture can enhance efficiency and increase productivity, but this should not be at the risk of jeopardizing health and well-being. Consequently, new technologies need to be assessed and existing methods reviewed. Given the incomplete understanding of ecosystems and agriculture, care must be taken. This principle states that precaution and responsibility are the key concerns in management, development and technology choices in Organic Agriculture. Science is necessary to ensure that Organic Agriculture is healthy, safe and ecologically sound. However, scientific knowledge alone is not sufficient. Practical experience, accumulated wisdom and traditional and indigenous knowledge offer valid solutions, tested by time. Organic Agriculture should prevent significant risks by adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering. Decisions should reflect the values and needs of all who might be affected, through transparent and participatory processes.

SAOSO adopts these 4 Principles and advocates for them. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 19


Packaging for The Future Organic farming involves much more than just choosing not to use pesticides. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment - a prescription that requires the organic philosophy to be carried from cradle to grave. Packaging has long been a major challenge for the organics sector, with large amounts of retailed produce relying on plastic - a material largely at odds with the organic ethos.

South African consumers are fast becoming more health and environmentally conscious. The organic movement has grown from a niche market to a rapidly growing one, with organic ranges found in all the major supermarket chains. It has been shown, trust and credibility are key factors involved in consumers’ purchase decisions, with one in five organic shoppers saying their motivation is to protect the environment 1. Consumers judge a brand on the whole purchasing experience, including the packaging it is sold in. Sustainable Africa is looking to address packaging challenges in South Africa, offering economically viable alternatives to traditional plastics. Split into two divisions, we offer solutions for both food service and primary packaging. As packaging can have either a negative or positive effect on the shelf life and quality of a product, innovation and performance are key considerations in the development of our solutions. For example, unpackaged vegetables will dry out, but wrap them in an impermeable barrier, such as plastic, and they risk going soggy. Up

20 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

until now the best solution has been to use plastic (polypropylene) film with small or large holes. A hole, even a laser-made one, is enormous in comparison to a molecule of O2 (CO2 or moisture vapour) - a clumsy way of trying to balance permeability. Our Earthwrap bag is the first of its kind to offer breathability without reliance on holes. These bags are designed to extend shelf life of fruit and vegetables, anywhere from 5 days up to 2 weeks depending on the contents. The film is not plastic, it is a natural bio-polymer made from plants. It is sustainable and fully compostable even at home, perfectly echoing the ethos of organic farming. Our Earth packaging range has won several awards internationally for its sustainability. The material can be used to make a pouch, a bag or even flow wrapping. It is made from paper with a 100% plastic-free heat sealable coating on the inside. This enables the paper to be protected from grease, moisture and oxygen; allowing food to stay fresh yet still recyclable in the paper stream. Consumers do not need to separate anything from the packaging when paper recycling. This product has the potential to revolutionise the shopping experience and drastically reduce the amount of plastic found on our supermarket isles. In South Africa roughly 2.9 million tons of beef, pork, and poultry consumed every year2; and nearly all is sold in some form of plastic packaging, the most common being the expanded polystyrene trays (EPS). EPS has known negative health effects for both consumers (via leeching into the food) and workers who produce the product. In fact, the marine and environmental impact has been so severe that over 100 cities and countries have already banned or partially banned EPS3. Our Bagasse meat trays teamed up with our compostable meat pads are a fantastic alternative to EPS, and for a completely plasticfree solution we also have compostable cling film. It doesn’t end there! We also offer a range of compostable alternatives from coffee cups to cutlery. Visit www.sustainableafricaco.co.za to see our full range of eco products - and how we can help enhance your organic brand. 1 The IRI Shopper Survey - https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/168/170915.html 2 https://brandongaille.com/19-south-african-meat-industry-statistics-trends-analysis/ 3 https://www.americancityandcounty.com/2018/10/17/local-polystyrene-bans-continue-sweep-across-u-s/

A leading light in all things organic and natural... Bryanston Market has been a social space for health and well-being in Johannesburg for 43 years. Their focus has been on the creation of a conscious living space for like-minded people to come together. A place of sharing, learning and belonging, where they lead by example and the experience is more than the purchase of a product.

Organic fresh produce is the cornerstone on which this pioneering Market was built. As it grew, customers asked for assurance of the organic integrity of the fresh produce they purchased. This led the Market to introduce the community based Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). With third-party organic certification being financially out of reach for smallholder farmers, PGS provided an excellent alternative.

Bryanston Market PGS farmers are based in Johannesburg and surrounding areas on semi-urban smallholdings, suburban vegetable gardens and inner-city gardens. The group use as their reference the SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing. Farmers are assessed annually, and customers are invited and welcomed as key participants on farm visits. Consumers are looking for a closer relationship between themselves and their food source. PGS facilitates this need through collaboration and community. It supports the right of communities to reclaim their role in the food system. Bryanston Market is committed to the healing of the earth and its people in line with the global movement toward sustainability and food sovereignty.

“Participatory Guarantee Systems are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.� IFOAM – Organics International. Established in 2005, farmers and customers of the Bryanston Market PGS jointly developed their processes using the six basic elements of PGS: Shared Vision, Participation, Transparency, Trust, Learning Process and Horizontality. All are responsible, all are accountable.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 21

3 F R E Q U E N T LY A S K E D Q U E S T I O N S


We spoke to Nico Uys from AGRO ORGANICS for answers

What is the difference between “natural” and “organic”?

What must one look for when buying organic fertiliser?

Natural foods or wholefoods are fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, beans and legumes. These foods can be produced with organic, biological, biodynamic or chemical inputs. Organic, biological and biodynamic is a decided manner away from chemicals and is far more sustainable than what we now call conventional farming. Organic used to be conventional before chemicals. There are certain producers who decided to be certified organic or biodynamic and have all their inputs and methods audited at a cost for consumers assurance. Agro Organics is such a company. All products and processes get audited once a year and then the product status is updated and presented to the users.

There is always a ratio of N: P: K. Generally look for the higher K (Potassium). Also look at the source. And if it is chicken manure based, it should not smell like rotten eggs. This ensures that good products are used. There are some excellent products available. SOME INTERESTING FACTS The use of the words fertiliser and nutrient in agriculture are misnomers. •

A synthetic “fertiliser” is actually a pesticide (microbial killer).

A nutrient is not an element! Plants are fed by microbial interactions and the nutrients are macro-molecules. On these macro-molecules one finds elements and they are precisely placed! Any change, however small, can be detrimental for the plant.

Organic by definition means to grow from within. Stimulants required are not rocket science - nature’s tools and bio-mimicry are used. Biological inputs and carbonfarming (covercrops) makes farming fun and not a science driven by big agriculture.

What exactly is organic fertiliser, and is the fertiliser just as effective as non-organic fertilisers? The same accounts for an organic fertiliser. There are organic fertilisers that are certified for organic agriculture use. Yes, they are effective. Their nitrogen level is not as high as normal fertilisers. Organic fertilisers mostly have a carbon source with the mineral, making them slow release products.

22 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Nico Uys | nico@agroorganics.co.za | 083 565 7337


Green Cleaning An emerging lifestyle choice towards better health and environmental sustainability Dr Rajesh Lalloo, Chief Technology Officer, OptimusBio (Pty) Ltd

Green is the new lifestyle trend, but choosing

with improvements in technology, these ingredients now offer great performance, so the price premium should not be more than around 30%. In some of our studies spanning over 250 000 m2 of under roof area, green products were cheaper than conventional by ~22%, mainly due to lower consumption and improved efficiency. A good green product should give you the ‘less is more’ experience.

authentic green products can be tricky, if you’re not aware of what to look for. There are two major trends driving the lifestyle choices that people are now more than ever consciously making. Of key importance is health, followed by environmental sustainability, but the two are inextricably linked. A healthy planet supports healthy people! Concerns around sustainable water supply, are driving behaviours such as water conservation, water treatment and water re-use. Evidence that the planet is ailing is now more visible in the severity of major climatic events, so people need to more carefully consider the types of products they choose.

The products should have a positive impact on down-stream water systems, whether this is on-site, such as grey water and septic tanks or the municipal water works. This is where bioactive products come to the fore, because they contain safe bacteria, that start the water treatment process from source. Biologically active products also have added advantages such as odour control and preventing blockages in traps and pipes, thus reducing facilities maintenance costs.

When choosing green cleaning products, the consumer is faced with a myriad of branded products at premium prices, often hampering adoption by the average person. There are all kinds of self-endorsed brands, logos and icons, claiming to be green, but many of them are actually not. These “green washed” products are exploiting the good intentions of consumers and hijacking our wellness and sustainability agenda’s, so we share with you a quick checklist of what to look out for, when making a purchase. The first check is whether the manufacturer is accessible and willing to share proper information, such as the Safety Data Sheets, detailed product information and fully disclose all ingredients, otherwise it is best to avoid such products.

Beyond these core checks, there are added preferences to consider when choosing green products:

It is important to ensure that none of the ingredients used in the products are toxic to people, animals or aquatic systems. The increased incidence of cancers and inflammatory diseases are often related to chemical exposure, which is the main reason why people are making alternative product choices. Check that all ingredients are readily biodegradable according to an internationally acceptable standard, such as OECD 301. This means that everything should biodegrade within 28 days from use. The product should conform to a Type 1 internationally acceptable green certification, such as Global Green Tag. Without proper certification, there is no way of telling that a product is green, so completely avoid products that are not properly certified, no matter how enticing the branding or packaging may appear. The product should be affordable, easy to use and perform the intended function. Be prepared to pay a little more, as green ingredients are more costly than conventional ingredients, but

• •

• •

Is the product locally manufactured, because local products have a lower carbon footprint, improve the local economy and stimulate job creation? If biologically active, are the microbes indigenous and properly characterised, in contrast to unknown mixed cultures and nonindigenous microbes? Is the product bottle re-usable? It should be treated like a tool rather than a disposable, to prevent waste to landfill. Do not choose single use products. Are product refills available in miniaturised concentrate format to reduce packaging, shipping and waste impacts? Is the packaging made of recycled materials and is it also recyclable or biodegradable? Avoid unnecessary use of anti-bacterial and disinfectant products, because many have negative health effects and can cause multiple drug resistance in pathogens. Avoid products that contain high volatile organic carbons (VOC), such as solvents and alcohols. Avoid products which contain commonly used excluded compounds such as, phosphates, ammonia, chlorine, EDTA, phenols, heavy metals, large amounts of salt, etc.

OptimusBio is a level 1 BBBEE company that locally manufactures Global Green Tag certified products for cleaning, water and waste treatment. We supply the institutional cleaning, automotive, mining, personal care, water and solid waste treatment industry sectors, including household consumers through www.optimusbio.com, and pride ourselves on exclusively developing and manufacturing green products of the highest quality, using biotechnology from the CSIR. Our “greener together” ethos, ensures the highest levels of people engagement, education, service and technical support. Products of the future, accessible to everyone now. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 23


Food Waste, Composting and Soil Health By Gavin Heron, Earth Probiotic matter also binds soil particles and improves the water holding capacity of soil.

Whether you are of the “hydroponics is organic” or “only-grown-in-soil is organic” persuasion, you would still acknowledge the importance of soil health in growing healthy food (hydroponic inputs also come from soil or organic sources which came from soil).

The importance of soil health was underwritten by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) when they named the year 2015 as “The International Year of Soils”. This focus by the FAO was driven by the fact that life, all life, depends on healthy soils and our soils are in crisis. The soil crisis comes from two related sources: (1) we are losing our topsoil through bad crop management and the continuing expansion of our urban environments which are covering soils, and (2) over fertilisation and poisons which are killing the little soil that is left. Given the importance of soil to healthy food it is important that we think about how to rebuild soil health. Organic matter is key to healthy soil. Organic matter provides nutrients and habitat to key macro and micro organisms living in the soil which, in turn, make these nutrients available to plants. Organic

Compost heap 24 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Bokashi bins

The value of organic matter is well known by the agricultural community. But this value is, inexplicably, largely ignored and instead the focus is on the provision of NPK fertilisers — in increasing volumes — for THIS season ONLY. Tragically, the plants that ‘mine’ these nutrients from the soil are not able to return them from whence they came. Agriculture has been likened to mining: an extractive activity where nutrients are mined by the plants which are then beneficiated in food processing factories for consumption by a global market. At each step of the production cycle wastage occurs: at the point of harvest where off-specification produce is ploughed back into the soil; through the logistics system where a corrugated road can bounce tomatoes into a bruised rejection skip at the wholesale market; at a factory making pre-prepared soup where the trimmings and peelings are binned; at the store where the produce goes past its sell by date and into a compactor; and from the consumer who over buys or doesn’t have a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling. Minimising food waste at these stages is key to an efficient economic system, but so is managing the ever present waste itself (there will never be zero waste). There are multiple solutions for this waste stream: anaerobic digestion, vermicomposting, waste-to-energy incineration, composting, pyrolysis and even the processing of the waste stream by cockroaches and flies. Earth Probiotic focusses on the on-site composting of food waste.

Compost steam

While no single solution will solve the food waste problem, the company believes that on-site composting can deliver significant benefits both in decentralising waste management and thus reducing the costs of sending this waste to centralised waste processing facilities (in South Africa this is mostly sent to landfills). Decentralised systems can reduce transportation costs and emissions while also eliminating the risks inherent in the management of food waste: rotting, non-collection due to industrial action, vermin infestations, foul odours. While Earth Probiotic’s solutions focus on food waste, the beneficial output from these units can deliver real value in gardening and agriculture. Much of today’s soils are deficient in key macro and micro nutrients. This weakness in our soils leads either to an over use of synthetic fertilisers or to weak plants. Yet, much of what healthy soil needs is in food waste: organic carbon, key minerals and, when properly composted, key beneficial microbes. A healthy soil is a living soil teaming with macro and micro creatures all interrelating with one another and with the root biome. Bacteria are processing organic matter and making it available to plants which, in turn, reward these microbes with sugar. Fungi are also converting organic matter into available nutrients while also playing a key role in holding soil together and improving its water holding capacity. The on-site composting of food waste delivers two fundamental benefits: (1) reducing organic waste volumes going to landfill and thereby reducing CO2e emissions by 617kg per tonne, (2) building healthier soil through adding food waste organic matter, nutrients and microbes to soil. Earth Probiotic’s solutions can scale from household volumes (around 30kg of food waste per household per month), to office canteens and even up to industrial scale volumes of over 50 tonnes food waste per month. Bokashi, “fermented organic matter” in Japanese, is a two step process where waste is firstly fermented in anaerobic bins using beneficial microbes. Fermented food waste is then directly trenched into soil, added to compost heaps or rows, or fed to composting earthworms. Bokashi composting systems can scale from small volumes up to around 1,500kg per month - larger volumes become complex and difficult to manage.

Heron IVC

For larger volumes, Earth Probiotic supplies automated in-vessel composting machines. The Earth Duo is a batch composter that will process up to 2,000kg food waste per month. This machine consists of two chambers which are sequentially and alternatively filled and emptied: when one chamber is full, the other chamber is emptied of ready compost. The company’s Earth Cycler can process up to 5,000kg per month on a flow-through basis: food waste in, compost out. Both of these machines are fully automated, are IoT (internet of things) enabled which allows for remote access, programme changes and management. Additionally these units record input and output data which is fed to live online dashboards. The Heron IVC is the company’s largest range of composting machines. These are installed in shopping mall and university environments with the largest in the range able to process upwards of 50,000kg per month. Like the smaller units these machines are also fully automated. Key to these on-site solutions is that the machines have been designed to fit into existing waste areas. The Duo and Cycler need less space than a car parking space while the heron IVC will replace large compactors. In-vessel composting allows for full control of the composting process while also, being enclosed systems, not allowing access to the food waste matrix by rats and other vermin. Currently the output from these units is added to landscape/garden waste conventional composting windrows. Here the matrix works as a concentrated accelerant and radically reduces compost turn around times while adding food waste nutrients to the compost matrix. Laboratory tests indicate that this food/garden waste compost has nitrogen (N) levels approaching that of chicken manure and much higher phosphorous (P) levels than conventional compost — potassium (K) levels are on average the same as conventional compost. While Earth Probiotic’s solutions are primarily positioned as an alternative organic waste management solution to landfilling, the fact that these systems recycle food waste nutrients back to soil provides a significant and sustainable soil benefit.

Heron IVC mixing auger blade

Earth Cycler SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 25


CHOICES There are lots of definitions out there, which vary depending on where you live, but to paraphrase the Irish Department of

What’s the right career path for you? Where should you live? Should you start a family? And, of course... *drum roll please*... organic or non-organic?

Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Organic farming aims to control pests, diseases and weeds with approaches such as crop rotations, using recycled organic materials (like animal manure), and nonchemical methods. This generally means no synthetic pesticides, but when non-chemical approaches fail, organic farmers do have access to a limited number of pesticides, mostly from natural sources. So, what does this mean for the environment? We asked Rob

OK, maybe this one doesn’t rise to the level of major life decision, but when you’re staring at a wall of options at the grocery store,

Walbridge, an organic agronomist, for his perspective (hint: that means he’s an expert in organic farming).

it can give you pause. If you’re looking to help the planet while

“To say that organic farmers make decisions that prioritize things

putting food on your table, what’s the best choice?

like soil health, water quality, and biodiversity may be true to some

As it turns out, there isn’t really a cut-and-dry “best.” Both organic and conventional farming affect the environment in different ways — and farms don’t divide neatly into two simple categories. Conventional farms aren’t all the same, and organic farms aren’t all the same. Individual farmers make their own choices, using a variety of approaches that all come with their own benefits and trade-offs.

varying degree,” Rob says. “But I think it’s more accurate to say that the organic standards help channel farmers into making decisions that are more likely to result in these benefits. For example, without access to economical, easy-to-use synthetic herbicides and insecticides, organic farmers are more likely to end up with a greater diversity of habitat for, and populations of, beneficial insects. Those beneficials, in turn, provide a large part of the pest control function

Let’s take a look...

that insecticides would otherwise provide.”

What’s in a Name? First, what does organic actually mean?

Sounds great, right? But benefits like this come with trade-offs.

26 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

“The trade-offs are less convenience, less predictability, less control, and a higher degree of risk,” Rob says. “This is why it’s not for everyone and a large part of the justification for premium prices.”

synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are convenient, manufacturing

Consider This

in addition to pests. However, the World Health Organization says,

So, if you’re trying to assess the overall environmental effects of farming approaches, what are the key things to consider? Let’s dig in — but keep in mind that all of these will depend greatly on the specific conditions of each farm. Land Use Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, along with other modern conventional farming tools, have allowed farmers to make big gains in productivity, getting more food out their land. Since organic farming doesn’t include many of these tools, yields tend to be lower than in conventional farming. In other words, you need more land to grow the same amount of food. And what are the environmental consequences of using more land? Let’s look at biodiversity. Biodiversity Organic farmland specifically focuses on providing better conditions for wildlife, through things like integrated pest control and weed control requirements. However, in order to create the additional farmland required for organic farming to produce the same amount of food as conventional farming, you need to clear more land — and land-clearing can decrease biodiversity by destroying or dividing up habitats. Is it more environmentally friendly to farm a larger area using methods that are more supportive of biodiversity or farm a smaller area using methods that are less supportive? Scientists don’t know — the research is inconclusive, and results will vary depending on the location of the farm. In one area, organic farming may be better for biodiversity, while in another, conventional farming may be the better bet.

them produces greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, when not used correctly, these chemicals may accidentally hurt other living things, “Pesticides need not be hazardous if suitable precautions are taken.” Meanwhile, organic farmers can use non-synthetic fertilizers — such as manure and mined minerals — along with certain biological pesticides. We’re going to take the high road and skip the elementary school jokes, but let’s just say manure is, um, naturally produced. But “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean these chemicals have no impact on the environment. For example, while synthetic fertilizers release nutrients when the crops need them, manure can sometimes release excess nutrients. The rain can wash away excess nutrients from fertilizers, manure, and even urban areas and they may end up in rivers and lakes. And too many nutrients in the water can cause eutrophication. That’s a fancy word to describe how excess nutrients can reduce water quality and threaten fish and aquatic plant habitats. Organic farms tend to have healthier soil, thanks to their greater diversity of life. However, since organic farmers don’t use synthetic pesticides, they often depend on tilling (stirring up fields, using methods like plowing) as a means of controlling weeds. And tilling fields can contribute to soil erosion, which reduces the supply of healthy soil. Modern herbicides and genetically-engineered seeds can make it easier for conventional farmers to adopt no-till or lowtill methods. A lot to consider, right? It’s not a black and white question. And there’s no need to take sides in an “organic vs. conventional” debate. With so many benefits and trade-offs in play, it’s easy to see why some farmers adopt one method, while others adopt another and

Fertilizers and Pesticides

a great number combine practices from each approach. And by

Fertilizers and pesticides tend to dominate discussions about organic and non-organic food. Fertilizers are used to nourish plants, while pesticides serve to protect them from pests and diseases. While

learning more about the challenges farmers tackle and the decisions they make, we can all make more informed food choices that align with our values.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 27


Organic Farming In order for us to compare the two forms of agriculture we need to have common understanding of the two broad terms.

Organic agriculture is no less commercial in its approach than so called chemical or conventional or industrial agriculture. With modern man’s scientific approach to all matters, it is no less an issue to the organically thinking person than it is to the conventional farmer. There is an objective science applicable to both agricultural approaches - the Individual sets the tone - the method of agriculture is impartial to itself. The concept of ‘good husbandry’ underpins all forms of agriculture and is necessary to all approaches. Care, planning, commitment, openness to new ideas, inspirations and technologies, good ‘common sense’, cooperating with nature, not imposing on fragile systems, working with the natural rhythms and routines, staying within the life sphere when fertilising, developing a dependable instinct based on experience are some of the other qualities that contribute to overall success. 28 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Perhaps people will only accept that there is science in organic agriculture when they realise it is the same science as that of chemical agriculture - only the focus and orientation differ. It is not a question of one or the other. It is a question of finding a balance so that the science of the objective phenomena, as they exist, are acknowledged and worked with. For this reason, I believe that the farmer, the scientist and the government should unite in researching organic forms of agriculture. This, in the field research, will allow for objective viewpoints and judgements based on facts and phenomenology and it is though this that sound national policies should be formed. It would be naive to think that organic agriculture can or needs to replace conventional agriculture immediately. There is a place for both expressions at present, and each has a role to play. It would be unrealistic to think that we should change conventional farms into organic farms overnight. What is needed is an understanding of the ecological aspects involved in all forms of agriculture, so that the environment of the farm and its orientation into the greater ecosystem are led into a harmonious and sustainable future. Through this approach we can embark on systematic change over time where the conversion to organic agriculture happens harmoniously without sacrificing existing food production. We are in the process of a global shift into an agroecological expression to all agriculture. There are several other expressions of organic

agriculture and we need to differentiate between organic agriculture and ‘certified organic’. Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. We could say “Certification is a system by which the conformity of products to applicable standards is determined”. Let’s look at the common definitions of both systems. Organic farming is well defined in international standards by the Codex Alimentarius and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, (IFOAM). The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission defines’ organic agriculture as a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs. This is accomplished by using, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system. The International Federation for Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) defines organic farming as follows: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.” There is also the draft National Policy on Organic Farming issued by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries where we find the following: “Organic farming refers to the type of farming that is done without the use synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, and insecticides. Organic farming relies on the environment’s own systems for controlling pests and diseases, and avoids the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Instead organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution. In case of plant production, it involves the use of crop rotation, natural composting, approved environmentally friendly pest control and homeopathic remedies to produce food that is free of all artificial additives. In case of animal production, the animals raised on organic farms must be allowed to

range as freely as possible and eat only organically produced feeds”. The use of ‘organic’ in reference to agricultural production and food is legally constrained in many countries, and some certification agencies have more stringent compliance requirements than others. We obviously need to position ourselves to the subject at hand the term “organic agriculture” seems to confuse many people. In putting this article together, I have understood Organic Agriculture to be an amalgamation of many different and diverse approaches within the “organic” stream. Organic agriculture means different things to different people depending on the context from which they use the term. Industrial agriculture is currently the dominant food production system. It’s characterized by large-scale monoculture, heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematicides and meat production in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). The system is associated with agrochemicals. An agrochemical or agrichemical, a contraction of agricultural chemical, is a chemical product used in agriculture and includes the previously mentioned products. The industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, fruit and nuts, and crops is called industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture includes techno scientific, economic, and political methods. Methods like inventing new agricultural machines, adopting new

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 29


32 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

farming methods, creation of new markets for consumption, ensuring patent protection to genetic information, using genetic technology and global trade are used in industrial agriculture. It is using these methods that most of the meat, dairy, eggs, fruits, and vegetables available in supermarkets nowadays are produced. Industrial agriculture is also called industrial farming and by the very nature of its approach, chemical farming. The birth of industrial agriculture coincides with that of the Industrial Revolution as a generalization. The identification of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (referred to by the acronym NPK) as critical factors in plant growth led to the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers, making possible more intensive types of agriculture. Chemical farming balances shortfalls as expressed through soil analysis, whereas organic farming tries to balance living processes active in the soil as the symptom of the mineral(physical), chemical and biological components of the soil. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, led to vitamin supplements, which in the 1920s allowed certain livestock to be raised indoors, reducing their exposure to adverse natural elements. The discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in concentrated, controlled animal feed operations by reducing diseases caused by crowding. Chemicals developed for use in World War II gave rise to synthetic pesticides. Developments in shipping networks and technology have made long-distance distribution of agricultural produce feasible. There is a fundamental link to the term Green Revolution when we think of chemical agriculture. The background to the term agriculture in its most modern sense stems from the following. In 1944, an international campaign called the ‘Green Revolution’ was launched in Mexico with private funding from the USA. It encouraged and led to the development of hybrid plants, chemical fertilisers, chemical controls, large-scale irrigation, and heavy mechanization in farms around the world. During the 1950s, sustainable agriculture was a topic of scientific interest, but research concentrated on developing new chemical approaches. The term was coined by William Gaud (March 1968) who was the director of the USA Agency for International Development. There is a fundamental relationship to a change in orientation to the production of food and feed. The term agriculture evolved with the advent of the Green Revolution. It went from agriculture to agribusiness. It went from an organism to a machine. No matter what methods are used, agriculture always has some impact on the environment. But industrial agriculture is a special case: it has led to damages in the soil, water, and even the climate on an unprecedented scale. We can transform the current agricultural system to prioritize investments in healthy foods and farms —but not without you. Your generous support helps develop sciencebased solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future. The impacts of industrial agriculture on the environment, public health, social cohesion and rural communities make it a less preferred way to grow our food over the long term. And better, science-based methods are available as choices we can make. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 31

A consumer backlash against food sold for taste, convenience, and profit rather than nutrition and other values (e.g. reduce waste, be natural, be ethical) has led the industry to also provide alternatives such as naturally grown, organic food, minimally processed foods, and minimally packaged foods to maximally satisfy all segments of society thus generating maximum return on investment. Industrial agriculture uses huge amounts of water, energy, and industrial chemicals; increasing pollution in the arable land, usable water and atmosphere. Herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, and animal waste products are accumulating in ground and surface waters. “Many of the negative effects of industrial agriculture are remote from fields and farms. Nitrogen compounds from the farm, for example, travel down the water courses to the sea to degrade coastal fisheries. But other adverse effects are showing up within agricultural production systems—for example, the rapidly developing resistance among insects and pests, diseases and weeds is rendering our arsenal of herbicides and insecticides increasingly ineffective.” Here’s what we know: •

We’re using more pesticides, fungicides, nematicides and herbicides in our conventional agricultural systems than ever before.

Cancer rates are on the rise worldwide.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified three common conventional pesticides and herbicides—glyphosate, malathion, and diazinon— as probable carcinogens.

Incidents of autoimmune diseases including celiac, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis have increased significantly worldwide in the last 30 years—as much as 7% per condition. That increase has been sharpest in Western and developed countries, suggesting environmental factors are at play.

As a result of the agricultural system people get sick. Iatrogenesis is the fifth leading cause of death in the world. The side effects and risks associated with the medical intervention are called iatrogenesis.

And of course, this above list is not comprehensive by any means and the subject matter needs a lot more understanding and research.

As far as the specifics of how organic foods impact overall human health, there’s a lot we don’t know. Beyond the nutrition basics that everyone can agree on—eat more fruits and vegetables, go easy on the sugar and the trans fats—there’s almost no consensus on which diet is best. Nutrition doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that makes it hard to study the impact of an organic diet. People vary widely in their genetics and cultural and environmental influences. Even if scientists could control the diet of study participants tightly, they can’t control how genetics contribute to nutrient absorption, for example, or the air quality a subject breathes during their day. All of those things can affect the results of studies looking at the effects of diet, organic or otherwise. As a result, research studies on the effects of an organic diet have been controversial. However, several do indicate that eating organic foods might be better for your health. But what about other factors? We’re impacted by more than just what we eat. The air we breathe and the water we drink also affect our immune system and our quality of life. Organic production not only releases fewer emissions by avoiding nitrogen fertilizers—it also keeps toxic chemicals out of the public water supply. There are pros and cons to both sides, and it is objective research and study that allows for informed decision making. Each of us needs to make these informed conscious decisions for a future agriculture. We need to account for a decision that is based on sound social factors, environmentally sensitive factors, ethical factors and economic factors that are equitable and include the costs of externalities. These decisions made on this basis lead to securing an agriculture that honours the Indigenous Knowledge System principle known as the 7th Generation Principle.

Remember you are responsible, as eating is an agricultural act.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 33


Organic Farming Once again, we need to go into the history of agriculture in general to give us the context for an Organic agriculture.

Let’s look into the past and see how agriculture as we know it came about. We would need to go as far back as when man was a “Huntergatherer�. We are talking of the earliest agriculture recorded as beginning in the Akkadian Empire beginning some 14 - 10 thousand years ago. We cannot presume that Man at this time was as he is today. His consciousness and being were not as ours is today. He did not think like us. His approach to life was different than ours is today; his agriculture not yet developed was not a part of his daily life. You will find at these early times that mankind was spiritually still close to its origins. His gods motivated man. There was no separation between man and his natural world. The physical world and man were one, a reflection of the powers of creation. Man was more atavistic which means that his inspiration, his imagination, his intuition, his motivation, his direction was not guided so much by his inner life (self-awareness/reflection) and 34 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

conscious choice but rather was prompted by the direction he received from the creative spirits, from his gods emanating and residing in the cosmos but reflected into the natural world. As time moved forward an evolutionary line was started within mankind. There were those that were inspired to work within the four Kingdoms of nature. There were those that started breeding animals, domesticating animals, becoming the shepherds, the herdsman. Throughout generations people were steadily able to transform the animals into domestication. Now within mankind there came about those that came to do a similar thing with plants. They were the plant breeders. Perhaps the German word ackerbauer (earth builder) describes these people most accurately.

Mankind was more or less divided into these two streams, the shepherd/herdsman on the one hand and the plant grower on the other. It was necessary for these people to transform the plants into edible food plants, (initially) the grains. The third evolutionary line who then split still further, were those that developed a special skill with the trees, the vines, the grape, the olive. In the following time another bloodline or fourth group, split away, they were those who out of their cosmic identity and with the guidance of their gods developed the annual plant, the vegetables. These four lines, evolutionary streams, were those that domesticated the grains, those that domesticated the animal, those the tree and vine and those that domesticated the annuals (the vegetables) and all developed separately, and they did not mingle, there was no exchanging of ideas. These four evolutionary lines reached their highest forms of perfection, through their approach over the centuries, before the time of Christ. They then submerge and reappear later in history, though there had been a complete metamorphosis to these separate streams. This is also but a reflection of the transformation that took place within mankind generally. Man becomes aware of his inner life; he is no more directed from the outside but rather his inner life steers his way forward. The four agricultural streams now unite and become one. This was to become the agricultural foundation for the future. The same person is now able to work with animals, crops, cultivate vegetables and fruit trees. This had not been possible before. As long as the earth was considered as being alive and sensitive, it could be considered a breach of human ethical behaviour to carry out destructive acts against it. New developing human and social needs threatened associated normative constraints thereby demanding new ones. Because the needs and purpose of society as a whole were changing, with the commercial revolution, the values associated the organic/organism view of Nature were no longer applicable, needed adaptation and change or were being continuously threatened. Nature herself was linked to a Divine ordering principle and this was now being threatened. The living character of the world organism meant that not only the stars and planets were alive, but that the earth too was permeated by a ‘force’ giving life and motion to the beings on it. This atmosphere we refer to is the region in which non-deterministic phenomena such as rain, storms and snow are formed. These are the things totally out of the realm of mechanical science which are of course of great significance to agriculture and therefore to man. In order to find our way into the future we need to come to know and understand our past. Through an insight into the history of agriculture we can orientate ourselves into our present and then from this into a future agriculture. It seems safe to presume that we all accept we began an evolution that took us from hunter gatherer to our present condition. When we look into the past, we find that there was a certain harmony in the balance of village, fields and surrounding forest. There existed a certain identity between the landscape and its inhabitants. Man had a close relationship with nature, an intimate relationship, an atavistic relationship, with the Natural world. Man at these earlier times lived in harmony with

Nature; he was at one with his surroundings. Meadows as we have come to know them don’t exist naturally- they are man-made. Prior to the creating of these man-made landscapes there was a four-foldness to the origin of agriculture. The four-foldness is an expression of the four evolutionary lines which manifested at the beginning of the developing evolution of agriculture and are expressed as the following four evolutionary streams: • • • •

The breeders and domesticators of grains The breeders and domesticators of animals The breeders and domesticators of the tree and vine The breeders and domesticators of annual plants

The 6th to the 9th century, A. D. brought a metamorphosis to these four lines. An inner clairvoyance cleared or ceased in Man, and an inner activity began to grow and develop in the individual, the germ of an individuality being sown. As Man began to transform himself inwardly, so he began to transform the outer world around himself. So called modern Man then starts to leave the land to seek selfconsciousness through settling in villages and towns that eventually become cities. Today man has lost his way into the future for a new creative sustainable agriculture and these inherited environments are now degrading, disintegrating and are being lost. There was a unity between the outside world to that what was within man whereas today man has separated himself from both his inner and outer nature. Today we find the disappearance of the hedgerow, the meadow and the forest as we see industrialised agriculture becomes the norm and the spreading of the urban environments.

The bygone expression of community represented in the village has ceased and man works primarily with his own individuality, his egoistical materialistic nature and it is this that needs transformation. Present trends in agriculture come from the thinking of man, who had towards the end of the 19th century, left a rural lifestyle to replace it with an urban condition. Rural life disintegrates and rather than a new expression of agriculture forming it becomes replaced with man going back to replace the farm as an organism with the separated four evolutionary lines being individually expressed on each farm as a specialization. The trend to separate the four evolutionary lines again was prompted and supported by the newly developing dead scientific method of thinking associated with man’s developing materialistic SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 35

36 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

viewpoint. The four evolutionary lines have to be taken up again and be transformed through modern consciousness. That which Nature can do her-self has to be transformed by man and lifted to a higher capacity. It is man’s responsibility to lead Nature and himself into the future. We have to take Nature beyond the threshold of working only with physical matter. We must take Nature beyond conservation. Future agriculture will unite the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms through Man and transform them through their united, interdependent, and or co-dependant processes. These combined processes are not manifest in the normal outward expression of Nature as we know it to be. These new living processes act in affirming the metabolism of the farm organism. This is to be seen as a common cultural task and challenge to take us into the future. It is to be done by the individual in freedom both to himself and in freedom in developing the future for the family of Man. Man must renew his identity to Nature in itself and out of this renew the nourishment he receives in return from it, each supporting the other in a symbiotic relationship. Man must come to realise that the future of agriculture, the future of Nature and the future of humankind are intrinsically bound. The future does not exist independently. This approach will need a completely new social structure in order for this to happen. Only when the farm becomes an organism can it reach out into the community. This will bring about new questions of ownership and economics. Land itself can never be realised as a matter for commerce, it is a social lie that it can. Yet each individual will have to come to realise this for himself. Man, at most is temporarily a custodian of the land he ‘owns’. If look to find a way to express this simply we can say that agriculture has been on an evolutionary path and it has expressed itself as; • • • •

Agri – culture (+/- 12,000BC – 1945) Agri – business (1945 – 1994) Agri - power (1994 – current) Agro – ecology (Future)

We are all familiar with sun rhythms and their influence on the growth of plants. Familiar also are the lunar phases and those of the other planets. It is our task to sort out, acknowledge and understand these prominent influences. It is no longer unscientific to address such things. Every plant grows between the earth or soil borne growth factors – water, nutrients and so on- and cosmic influences such as light, warmth, rhythms all having a dynamic effect on each other as a whole. It is the balance and interplay between these two poles wherein lies the optimum ripening potential of the plant and its relationship with a sense of quality. Agriculture is a social art; it is a social science as well as it being a social responsibility. We have to re-acquire those human values that can take farming as a way of life and through this to be able to stand the test of a modern expression of a poly-science. So when we look for an understanding of an Organic agriculture it is in this context that we position ourselves. The merging of an agriculture that integrates the four Kingdoms of Nature into one.

a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”. In another definition FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs” It can be said that Organic agriculture feeds the soil and the soil will feed the plant. There is a fundamental striving for balance between the chemical, mineral and biological aspects of soil. Organic farmers work with and promote life processes rather than try balance numbers and shortfalls. Another expression says organic is “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.” It is soil micro-organisms who mediate nutrient cycles through the decomposition of organic residues in organic soils so vital in organic farming. The soil is viewed as a body and like our own if nourished properly resistance to pest and disease can be developed through and immunity. Careful management of soil organic matter the foundation to the balance of health and fertility. We must understand that organic farming operates on the same scientific principles governing any agricultural system. To ensure that organic agriculture is the answer to the sustainability problem of a given region, it has to be adapted to the local farming, social, geographical and climatic factors. The use of ‘organic’ in reference to agricultural production and food is legally constrained in many countries, and some certification agencies have more stringent compliance requirements than others. Many farmers in less developed countries may practice organic agriculture by default based on their traditional methods of production. However, it is useful to provide a general definition of organic agriculture to indicate briefly what the production systems are designed to achieve.

The international food standards, Codex Alimentarius, states: “Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system”. (FAO 1999).

The USDA study team on organic farming says, “organic farming is SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 37

S H A R E D V I S I O N , S H A R E D VA L U E S


Participatory Guarantee Systems By Konrad Hauptfleisch, 2019

Participatory Guarantee Systems - or PGS, as such initiatives are commonly known - have been in existence long before it had a name. The concept and the practices of PGS were developed by communities globally for many decades, but it is only in the last 15 years that global organisations like IFOAM-Organics International recognised and started supporting this bottom-up phenomenon.

Farmer and consumer communities from round the world pioneered the first instances of PGS, but the roots lie even deeper: it goes back to the pioneers of organic agriculture, nearly a 100 years ago: The concept of modern organic agriculture was born as a reaction to the industrialisation of agriculture, and a growing concern amongst many that a reductionist approach to what is a complex 38 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

agroecosystem, is not the way to provide good food to humans while honouring and supporting the ecosystem that provides the space for our activities. Many pioneers of organic agriculture emerged globally in the 1920s and 30s. Names like Rudolf Steiner, Albert Howard, Mochidi Okada, Masanobu Fukuoka, Eve Balfour and a multitude of others are wellknown to supporters of the organic movement. It is also important to note that many of their pupils and supporters were involved in marketing organic products on farms and in local markets. Farmers and early promoters also recognised the importance of issuing

consumers and buyers with an assurance that what they were buying, was actually produced according to the principles and values of organic agriculture. As far back as 1927, following Steiner’s lectures, a co-operative was formed to market biodynamic produce, and in 1928 the Demeter symbol and first standard was introduced to ensure that the farming methods were uniformly followed and monitored. The first Soil Association standards appeared in its magazine, Mother Earth, in October 1967. It was only three pages, and titled ‘Standards for organic food production’. A fourth page for farmers and processors was later added to declare that they would abide by these standards. These initiatives were arguably the first instances of organic certification in the world, and was based on a system of farmer participation and consumer support. In 1972, Nature et Progrès was founded. From the beginning, this French association involved a number of stakeholders and pioneers, including farmers, consumers, agronomists, technicians and even doctors. Nature et Progrès could even be described as the oldest PGS in the world - and PGS in turn, as the original form of organic certification. Today, most consumers of organic products demand an assurance or guarantee of the products they buy – often for a higher price - realising the value not only for their own health, but for that of soils, ecosystem and the planet. These consumers are usually advised to look for a certification logo on their products, serving as a guarantee of organic integrity. Logos are usually issued by certification agencies, following an audit and physical inspection of a farm or processor by an expert inspector, following guidelines set by international standards authorities and in many instances covered by government regulations.

Recognising these constraints, a number of organisations, farmer groups and civil society organisations pioneered local solutions to the onerous and often expensive certification schemes offered by certification bodies and regulators. These alternative systems developed from the bottom up, using local knowledge, local values, local expertise and a high level of community participation. It aimed to issue an appropriate, credible and affordable organic assurance to its consumers, while at the same time, facilitating the entry into and compliance with its standards by the farming community. These systems focused on shared knowledge, values and responsibility to ensure the compliance the producers. As mentioned before, Nature et Progrès in France is probably the oldest of these systems, and initiatives like Rede de Ecovida in Brazil, Organic New Zealand, Keystone Foundation in India and Certified Naturally Grown in the USA followed suit in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The development and professionalization of the organic sector, accompanied by increased international trade has called for third party certification to become the norm in most developed organic markets; nevertheless, PGS have never stopped to exist and serve organic producers and consumers eager to maintain local economies and direct, transparent relationships. Thousands of organic producers and consumers are now verified through PGS initiatives around the world. Although details of methodology and process vary, the key elements and features remain consistent worldwide.

These guarantee systems require a high level of expertise, extensive amounts of paperwork and third-party oversight, many hours of deskwork and physical inspections, resulting in extremely high costs to the farmer or operator requiring such a certification procedure. Ironically, such systems and inspection are often more expensive in developing countries and the global South than in developed organic markets like Europe and the USA. It places additional strain on farmers and an emerging organic value chain, resulting in the exclusion of aspirant farmers, and the lack of much-needed certified products for the market, both local and international.

Thanks to the efforts of networks such as MAELA and IFOAM, the PGS concept has gained recognition and is now viewed by many as one of the most promising tools to develop local organic markets. But there are still many who are not familiar with PGS, who would like to know more about it or who are not so sure about how some issues are dealt with in these systems. Third-party programs are doing an excellent job at what they were designed for and have vastly increased the global market and awareness of organic products. PGS offer a complementary, low-cost, locally-based system of quality assurance, with a heavy emphasis on social control and knowledge building. PGS, as a SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 39

complementary method to third-party certification, is essential to the continued growth of the organic movement, especially if we want to include poorer smallholder farmers who have the most to benefit from organic. It is ironic that in many countries we see the number of acres under third-party organic certification increasing quickly, while the number of certified organic farmers is hardly growing. Based on these numbers it would appear smallholder farmers are less interested in joining the organic movement than large agribusiness farms. Of course this is not true; it is only the process of third-party certification that smallholders are less interested in. Barriers to entry for third-party certification, including direct costs and paperwork, mean that many of the smallest and poorest farmers (those that have the most to gain by joining a system of committed organic production) cannot participate, and this hurts the growth of the organic movement as a whole. The term Participatory Guarantee System is relatively new – coined after the joint IFOAM-MAELA Alternative Certification Workshop in Torres, Brazil, in 2004. Over 40 participants representing PGS initiatives from 20 countries attended and many of these were well established by that time. Some PGS, like the Nature et Progrès in France, have been around since the 1970s. Others were established in the 1990s and most of the rest were established in the last 7-8 years. The fast growth of the PGS movement over the last few years reflects the need to include smallholder farmers in the organic movement. In developing countries especially, most third-party certified farms rely on distant export markets to cover the cost of certification, so products from those farms are not available to local consumers. By bringing more farmers into a system of committed organic production, and linking that to direct and local sales, PGS offer much wider access of organic products to local consumers. Because PGS initiatives directly link up consumers and farmers they may also help to provide organic food at a lower cost to poor consumers. In Brazil, for example, farmers and consumers in one PGS work together to come up with a fair price for bananas. By selling directly to the consumer, farmers realize a higher price for their products than when they were sold to distributors while consumers pay less than when they purchased conventional bananas from retail shops. A similar initiative is running in India.

40 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

By meeting the needs of smallholder farmers and local and lowincome consumers, PGS initiatives are poised to grow even more quickly as awareness of organic continues to grow globally. In turn, PGS have become integral to the future growth of the organic movement. Without them, organic will remain the bastion of the rich and educated leaving the poorest farmers and consumers unable to benefit. It’s first essential to acknowledge that no system of certification or quality assurance is perfect. Farming is often a solitary profession; so unscrupulous people that want to cheat can generally find ways to do so. At the same time, PGS proponents believe that we must start with a foundation of trust and that organic farmers who make a public declaration to uphold the Principles of Organic Agriculture can, in fact, be trusted, and that intentional fraud accounts for only a minority of non-compliances. The PGS approach to quality assurance begins by looking at the primary factors behind most non-compliant actions. These include a lack of understanding about organic rules and a lack of knowledge of organic techniques to solve specific production problems organically. PGS address these two factors in a variety of ways, but in general they are based on guided peer review and support, as well as mutual knowledge building. In addition PGS initiatives make use of social control, which is effective only when local stakeholders have ownership and a direct hand in the certification mechanisms (as opposed to being answerable to a distant authority.) This requires locally based and non-hierarchical certification structures and mechanisms appropriate to the social context they are operating in. Finally, all PGS include guided on-site inspections. These on-site inspections usually involve consumers as well as representatives of the local community and are not only focused on compliance, but on knowledge exchange and learning. In this way, they achieve multiple objectives while achieving an organic guarantee. The guarantee has equivalent value to any other organic

guarantee – if measured against equivalent organic standards – the key difference is the methodology or procedure to achieve this compliance. While formal 3rd party systems rely on objective, accredited audits and extensive documentary evidence, PGS rely on transparency, participation and community support. Both systems can achieve assurance to a high level of credibility, and both are serving the development of organic agriculture worldwide. The advantage of PGS in a developing organic system is the fact that it promotes social processes and consumer involvement, celebrates diversity while supporting global values, and creating a pathway for development while facilitating market access for new farmers. All guarantee systems are reliant on the trust and commitment to principle of the stakeholders – we have recently seen an increase in fraud in the formal 3rd-party system worldwide, and any such breach of trust will erode the public’s trust in organic. PGS had the added advantage of being more suited to smallholder farming systems and short supply chains like local markets, direct sales and small retail. In this way, it can provide much-needed assurance to consumers and much needed market access for farmers. There are already a number of successful PGS in South Africa and many other countries in Africa, providing such assurance to their stakeholders. PGS is also recognised as a valid guarantee system in

the SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing, and is mentioned as a key component in the development of organic agriculture in the Draft Policy on Organic Production of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The official definition of PGS reads as follows:

“Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.” (IFOAM-Organics International, 2005) PGS has a number of key features and basic principles that support its development and growth – these principles include the very important components like a credible organic standard as the base of the system, supported by a transparent and documented, inspection or evaluation of the faring operation, and supported by a committed and involved community of farmers and consumers. With these components in place, PGS can support the development of a robust and accessible organic sector in not only South Africa, but also the Southern African Community and that of our whole continent.

Biological Systems Laboratory 26 Symmonds Lane, BoDorp, George 6529

Soil Analysis and Soil Fertility Research-based Recommendations Half price offer for October and November only! Professor Raymond Auerbach and his team can visit your farm and develop a programme. • Prepare for Organic Certification • Maximise soil biology & reduce disease • Move towards biological farming • Develop a Conservation Agriculture programme • Stay conventional, using fertilisers efficiently

biosystemslaboratory.strikingly.com SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 41

42 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Professional certification Control Union is a 99-year old, family owned, non-listed inspection and certification company with over 100 offices worldwide.

Control Union has three offices in South Africa. Our highly qualified auditors cover all regions of the country and southern Africa, providing the best, quickest and most efficient service. Control Union is fully accredited and our accreditations are recognised worldwide. Control Union South Africa offers a variety of organic certification standards, including EU, USDA-NOP and JAS. We provide additional audits in Demeter (Bio-Dynamic), Bio Suisse, Naturland and KRAV.

With the help of our online ‘Client Information System’ (CIS) clients can view the progress of their inspection and certification process, check reports, certificates or any outstanding issues. Furthermore, CIS enables our clients to request export approvals or transaction certificates online, which significantly speeds up this process. CIS is well protected to ensure confidentiality and security. Using the Control Union system, the products of any import or transaction certificate can be traced back to the farming field while keeping confidentiality in place. Control Union South Africa looks forward to assisting you to meet your ever-growing requirements, through our one-stop-shop approach. For more information please email jordimeijer@controlunion.com or certificationSA@controlunion.com, alternatively visit our website www.controlunion.com

Besides organic standards, we offer in South Africa: Food Safety (BRC, FSSC22000, ISO22000), ethical (SIZA, SMETA), Global G.A.P. and NurtureModule, animal welfare and the vegan standard - to name a few. Currently SAOSO and Control Union are working together to develop the organic agriculture sector in South Africa. Organic certification is a chain certification, meaning that every step, from the farm level until the finished product, must be audited and certified by an accredited, independent third party certification body. When all standard requirements are fulfilled, the certificate can be issued and the applicable logo can be used on the certified products.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 43

44 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Air-Assisted Electrostatic Spraying Systems WHAT GROWERS SHOULD KNOW The term “Electrostatic Spraying” is often misunderstood. Two

Benefits •

The way in which the spray coats the underside of leaves and backsides of stems is known as electrostatic “wraparound”. The electrostatic charge is 75 times stronger than gravity, allowing the spray droplets to uniformly disperse and cling to plant surface, rather than blown past the target, or accumulating into larger pools. The even dispersion avoids run off and chemical hot spots, to eliminate the risk of leaf and fruit burn from longer term chemical residue concentrations.

common mistakes are made in the assumption that “all electrostatic sprayers are the same” and are mistakenly referred to as “foggers”.

The important aspect of our technology is droplet size and mass, which led to the development of the Maxcharge™ nozzle 28 years ago, at the University of Georgia, in Atlanta, USA. The droplet size and efficacy of the dispersed electrostatically charged droplets, create a “wrap around” effect and cover the targeted object on all sides. Data submitted by leading universities demonstrate that air-assisted Electrostatic Spraying Systems (ESS): • • •

Electrostatic attraction is what causes items of clothing to stick to each other after being tumbled in a clothes dryer. The same natural force is utilized by ESS electrostatic sprayer systems. The heart of ESS air-assisted electrostatic sprayers is the patented MaxCharge™ nozzle, together with a spray dispersion through pressurized air, which produces spray droplets that are 900 times smaller than those produced by conventional sprayers. As the spray is atomized, the droplets pass an electrode in the patented MaxCharge™ nozzle, which induces a negative charge on each spray droplet. The lightweight, negatively charged droplets are dispersed from the nozzle and carried deep into the plant canopy in a turbulent air-stream. The negatively charged 30 to 60 micron droplets are repelled from one another and naturally attracted to the plant material, resulting in a uniform fine powder coat coverage. This provides measurably more than twice the deposition efficiency when compared to conventional non-electrostatic alternatives. Droplets literally change direction and move upwards against gravity to coat the plant surface. Although the technology is advanced, ESS air-assisted MaxCharge™ nozzles and sprayers are hardy and easy to maintain.

requires minimal water due to low-volume air-assisted spraying Low-Volume air-assisted spraying technology requires 8 to 12 times less water carrier than conventional spraying methods. Growers are able to reduce standard 1,000 litres per hectare applications by conventional methods to an average 100 litres per hectare using ESS technology.

increases efficiency of softer, environmentally safer applications The ability to provide comprehensive dispersion and coverage of targeted crop significantly improves the performance of controls applied. The increased residual effect can extend the half-life of controls and reduce frequency of spray applications.

Dramatically reduces the application water required Significantly reduces application waste and off-target drift Effectively increases insect and disease control

How does it work?

reduces the risk of drift, runoff and ground wastage

reduces costs through operational efficiencies of hectarage cover per application Low-Volume air-assisted spraying technology reduces the need and regularity of stoppage times per tank fill, increasing efficiencies of the number of hectares covered per spray day.

The benefits to the crop in quality terms and with improved dispersion of applications to efficiently manage insect and disease control, together reduced water requirements, spraying time, equipment wear and tear, add up to a lean payback period. Where can I find it? ESS Inc’s manufacturing facility is based in Georgia, USA, where all manner of sprayers, from compact handheld mobile backpack sprayers to industrial scale row crop sprayers, are built. I & M Smith (Pty) Ltd, have been operating in Africa for over 100 years, specialising in the agricultural sector. The company represents ESS Inc., in Africa and has built steadfast relations with their ESS clients. I & M Smith (Pty) Ltd., have trained technicians on standby, ready to assist with new sprayer commissioning, onsite operational staff training and comprehensive after sales service and spares support. For more information, including technical reports, studies, trials, as well as online brochures, visit www.iandmsmith.com or telephone +27 11 781 6150. SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 45

W H O W O U L D H AV E T H O U G H T ?

Pes t s T ha t Can Ma ke Yo u r Garden Healthier The Garden Ecosystem

Our approach to the way we garden has come a long way in recent years. Today more of us garden organically, working with the rhythms of Mother Nature rather than resisting her. We’ve realised that our gardens are a series of carefully balanced ecosystems. Break the food chain by spraying insecticides willy-nilly or being over fastidious and you’ll upset the balance, making your plants more susceptible to future pest attacks.

Nothing is ever black and white – and there are more than 50 shades of grey! Life’s a complicated web, and not all ‘pests’ should be vilified. In the right place, even aphids can be of enormous benefit to your garden’s ecosystem. Beneficial bugs such as hoverflies and lacewings will feed on them, and these in turn will help to sustain insect-eating birds. 46 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

Garden biodiversity is important, because a garden with lots of different living things in it is healthier. If your garden has a wide range of habitats including trees, shrubs, flowers, longer grass, a thriving compost heap and perhaps a pond, then it stands to reason you’ll have a lot of wildlife too. Pests are an important part of this ecosystem, so annihilating every last aphid with a spray, for instance, would knock out a vital part of the food chain. As a result there’d be fewer hoverflies, so when the aphids returned their natural predators wouldn’t be around

in anywhere near the numbers they were before. The unintended outcome of all this? Aphids left to run amok! One spring this concept was beautifully illustrated in my own garden when black bean aphids made themselves at home on my broad beans. I played a waiting game. Sure enough, a few days later, ladybird larvae made an appearance. They’d recently hatched out on the nettles running along the side of the plot and, with the arrival of their favourite snack; it wasn’t long before they were positively gorging on the aphids to bring them back into step. Pests With Benefits Some creatures are both the gardener’s friend and foe, depending on the time of year and what they’re up to. This is where things can get complicated. Let’s take a few common examples of traditional pests that can be a huge boon to the gardener in the right setting. 1. Slugs in the Compost We’re often told to completely eradicate slugs – to seek the slimy gangsters out by torchlight, to crush their pearly eggs and to set beer traps to lure them to a watery grave. But did you realise that slugs in your compost heap are no bad thing? Slugs and snails help to break down decaying organic matter and will work hard to draw fresh material from the top of the compost heap down into its depths. With enough food to hand there will be little reason for the slugs to spread out into the garden. Their eggs are likely to provide a tasty snack for something higher up the food chain, so they’re helping to fuel that all-important garden ecosystem too. Slugs in your compost heap? Leave them well alone!

2. Wasp Patrol Wasps and hornets are a nuisance. They sting when provoked and never get the message at the summer picnic: just buzz off! For this reason they’re often seen as the enemy. But this is character assassination of the worst order. Wasps are carnivores and their preferred protein snack comes in the form of a myriad of smaller insects. And, while admittedly not as effective as bees, they’re important pollinators. This makes them the organic gardener’s friend. A pragmatic approach works best with wasps. If they’re not harming you and their nest is out of the way, peaceful coexistence is worth pursuing. You may even come to welcome the sight of your wasps – and the dent they will be making to the local pest population. 3. Earwigs Eat Aphids The earwig is another often-misunderstood insect. Earwigs live in moist, dark places, such as on the fringes of the compost heap or amid mulch. But very wet weather sends them scampering up into plants for shelter where they will then feed, turning seedlings, leafy greens and herbs ragged as they rasp. However, like wasps earwigs are highly effective predators of many tiny insects, including aphids and other common pests. In most cases earwigs harmlessly go about keeping our enemies in check, so if they aren’t doing any harm, leave them be. Earwigs love to hunt in ivy, thickets of weeds and piles of leaves and debris, so grow susceptible plants away from their favourite haunts. The message to all of this is that garden pests contribute in their own way to the health of your garden’s ecosystem, and some even benefit us gardeners. Remember, we are merely caretakers of this world, and that includes our gardens. Let’s learn to live with these ‘pests with benefits’.

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019 | 47

48 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019

saosoessentials HANDBOOK 2020 The South African’s Organic Sector Organisation‘s OFFICIAL ANNUAL DIRECTORY showcasing the preferred service and product providers within South Africa’s organic industry








Annua l Handb ook

for farmers, producers, retailers and consumers The first of its kind in South Africa!

CALL US TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE FOR 2020! +27 21 422 1719 • www.saosoessentials.co.za

S u p p li

e r L is t


Corné Engelbrecht Elzet van Niekerk Tiaan Lotz Pieter Kruger Abrie Du Preez Janus Viljoen Christopher Haywood Dawid Snyman Koot Klopper Piet Smith/Bresler Wilmans Stef Buys Hennie Buys Goosen Lombard Wikus Du Plessis

013 282 0515 013 665 1465 083 273 6797 082 449 9964 083 640 6620 082 925 7573 076 797 2791 082 4912 150 076 907 4683 011 063 2907 054 337 6200 082 550 2336 079 989 9485 083 714 2990

Corne.Engelbrecht@unigro.co.za Elzet.VanNiekerk@unigro.co.za Tiaan.Lotz@unigro.co.za Pieter.Kruger@unigro.co.za Abrie.DuPreez@unigro.co.za Janus.Viljoen@unigro.co.za Christopher.Haywood@unigro.co.za Dawid.Snyman@unigro.co.za Koot.Klopper@afgri.co.za Piet.Smith@unigro.co.za/Bresler.Wilmans@unigro.co.za Stef.Buys@unigro.co.zaTiaan Lotz Hennie.Buys@unigro.co.za Goosen.Lombard@unigro.co.za Wikus.DuPlessis@unigro.co.za


Theo Potgieter Helmien Potgieter Benhri Moller Sonette Theron Nardus Kitshoff Linda de Klerk Andre Marais Elize Van Heerden Carli Botha Manus Fourie Sannetjie Botha Jacques Botha Lisa Hancke Lizette Lamprechts Dawid van Zyl Dalene Oelofse Chantel Van Der Linde Pieter Van Schalkwyk Flip Van Schalkwyk

083 556 6215 082 922 7241 082 444 2652 083 236 9979 082 334 2794 063 698 6170 082 887 4929 072 224 4518 084 409 3536 083 701 7729 083 330 9318 072 172 5273 082 450 2730 083 355 8155 072 446 -816 083 461 1362 082 328 1530 083 282 3568 078 099 2341

Theo.Potgieter@unigro.co.za Helmien.Potgieter@unigro.co.za Benhrie.Moller@unigro.co.za Sonette.Theron@unigro.co.za Nardus.Kitshoff@unigro.co.za Linda.DeKlerk@unigro.co.za Andre.Marais@unigro.co.za Elize.VanHeerden@unigro.co.za Carli.Botha@unigro.co.za Manus.Fourie@unigro.co.za Sannetjie.Botha@unigro.co.za Jacques.Botha@unigro.co.za Lisa.Hancke@unigro.co.za Lizette.Lamprechts@unigro.co.za Dawid.VanZyl@unigro.co.za Dalene.Oelofse@unigro.co.za Chantel.VanDerLinde@unigro.co.za Pieter.VanSchalkwyk@unigro.co.za Flip.VanSchalkwyk@unigro.co.za


UNIGRO is governed by the Financial Services Board (“FSB”) and acts in accordance with the National Credit Act (“NCA”). UNIGRO Insurance Brokers is an authorised financial services provider | FSP No. 1435. UNIGRO is an authorised distribution channel of Grobank Limited, an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP 5865)

2 |

SAOSO Essentials | Issue 1 2019


OUR SOLUTIONS: • • • • • • • •

Mortgage bond finance for the purchasing of land Flexible security options Product specific seasonal facilities for the purchase of production inputs Term loans for new infrastructure and establishment of long term crops Financing for the purchase of new and second-hand agricultural equipment Revolving credit Online services – eAccounts Tailor-made products for empowerment transactions



Transactional Account | Call Deposit Account | 32-day notice deposit account | Debit Card


Profile for SAOSO Essentials


The South African’s Organic Sector Organisation‘s official quarterly magazine . SAOSO works to unite with farmers, producers, retailers and...


The South African’s Organic Sector Organisation‘s official quarterly magazine . SAOSO works to unite with farmers, producers, retailers and...