Organic farming is one of the trendy ways of farming the world over. In South Africa, it involves the production of livestock and crops with the help of natural methods. This style of farming is very necessary since there have been bouts of water shortages as well as the loss of soil quality in the country.
Organic farming helps to preserve natural resources and it means the use of water-wise crops to improve soil quality. It also involves using water economically and ensuring proper management of animals. If you want to learn about organic farming in South Africa, we will discuss a lot about this subject in this post.
What is organic farming?
We must discuss what organic farming is before we even talk about organic farming in South Africa. In simple terms, organic farming involves the use of farming methods that are environmentally friendly in farming operations. The result of this is the improvement of soil quality, healthier individuals, and a better environment.
In a nutshell, organic farming makes use of natural farming methods that are friendly to the environment. This implies that the farmers do not make use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. The idea is to create a healthy environment, produce healthy food which leads to healthy consumers.
It is important to note at this point that organic farming is completely different from conventional and biological farming. Conventional farming only aims at getting the highest yields possible without considering the methods used. Biological farming is environmentally friendly but uses organic fertilizer and extra nitrogen when there is a need.
Starting an organic farm in South Africa
If you are reading this, there is a chance you want to go into organic farming in South Africa. Do you fall into this category? If you do, here are some pointers to help you start your organic farm in South Africa.
You must know the following:
- Expectations from an organic farmer
- Products allowed or disallowed in organic farming
- Agricultural methods used in organic farming and the reasons for these methods
- Registration and certification of organic producers
- Where and how to market organic products
You must obtain the document containing the list of regulations for organic farming in South Africa. This is a new document that governs the organic farming sector in South Africa. When you read through the document, it makes it easier to decide whether or not you want to be an organic farmer or not.
After making your decision, you should obtain a certificate from Afrisco. Afrisco is an organic certification body in South Africa accredited by IFOAM standards. IFOAM is an acronym for the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements.
You will need to pay the required fee for your certification. Before you get your certificate which allows you to operate, one of the inspectors from Afrisco will visit your farm. This is needed to carry out routine inspections after which you will receive a registration number. This number ensures that you have permission to sell your products using the organic farming logo provided by Afrisco.
This logo protects you and your products. You don’t need to certify your whole farm or products organically. It is, however, important that you differentiate between your organic and conventional products.
For a new organic farmer, there is a window period allowed for the transition. This helps the farmer to transition from conventional farming to organic farming. The transition period is determined based on organic regulations. For annual crops like vegetables, the transition period is somewhere around two years. It is three years for perennial crops like vines and other fruit trees.
Registering as an organic farmer in South Africa
If you are interested in being an organic farmer in South Africa, let’s show you how to register. There are three established processes through which you can register as an organic farmer in South Africa. We have explained them briefly below:
First Party: Face-to-face and Self-claim
In this method, the producer and their customers strike a personal relationship. This relationship may be built through word-of-mouth, friendship, or providing satisfying services. The consumer makes a payment for the products based on personal trust stemming from the existing relationship.
Self-claim requires the farmer to make unsubstantiated organic claims for their products. This is usually done using the word “organic” on the label of the product. Customers buy products without having prior knowledge of the farmer. As a result, some consumers buy substandard products.
Second Party: Participatory Guarantee System
The Participatory Guarantee System was introduced by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM). This certification is required for short-value chain marketing. The PGS system is used in South Africa and producers with this certificate are known as “PGS Endorsed” producers.
The PGS group makes use of international standards to checkmate products so that they can be sold on the international market. There is also an established method adopted to keep records. The body that oversees Participatory Guarantee Systems in South Africa is known as PGS-SA.
Third-Party Certification: AFRISCO
This certification is carried out on prospective organic farmers and it is done by AFRISCO. The certification by Afrisco is perfect for farmers that are involved in long-value chain marketing. An example of this is products that are processed and delivered to the retailer.
It is also perfect for producers that do not see PGS as an option. The process includes a site audit and the exchange of documents. After the process is completed, then the producer receives a certificate.
In this post, we have shown you what organic farming is all about. We have also shown you how to start your organic farm in South Africa as well as the modes of registration. Organic farming is fast taking over the agricultural sector of the South African economy. If you have any questions regarding organic farming in South Africa, you can drop your question in the comments section.