November & December 2023 Organic Sector Newsletter

November & December 2023 Organic Sector Newsletter

Greetings and welcome to the November/December edition of our newsletter for the organic sector! As we approach the midpoint of summer, with the summer solstice on the horizon and the eagerly anticipated holidays drawing near, we are delighted to share the latest end-of-year updates with you.

In this issue:

  • SA Organic Sector AGM
  • The new organic sector management committee
  • Launch of the SAOSO Foundation
  • Achievements under the KHSA
  • Sustaining growth in the organic sector
  • PGS Aggregators: Gauteng pilot projects launching
  • OFOs explained: moving the sector forward
  • #ChooseOrganic: Jackson’s Real Food Market #MeetYourFarmer activations
  • Pollinators in the news: Nandi Mkwanazi
  • Farmer Tip: Fall armyworm natural management

SA Organic Sector AGM

The South African Organic Sector Annual General Meeting (AGM) was hosted by the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) and Participatory Guarantee Systems South Africa (PGS SA) on 24 November 2023. 

This was the first joint AGM held post-merger of the two voluntary associations, SAOSO and PGS SA, which will enable the organisations to streamline their operations. PGS SA now functions as a division within SAOSO and continues to support the establishment of communities of practice and PGS groups that help facilitate local market access for organic and agroecological farmers. 

The working groups require active participation from the sector and we encourage all interested individuals to please participate. If you’d like to be added to the working groups, please contact: info@saoso.org 

Launch of the SAOSO Foundation

At the AGM, the launch of the South African Organic Sector Organisation non-profit company and Public Benefit Organisation was announced: the SAOSO Foundation. The Foundation has been established to facilitate the development of a sustainable food system through organic production and agroecology practices, and will be used as a fundraising vehicle to take the sector’s work into the future. 

SAOSO Chairperson, Alan Rosenberg, said: “We, the SAOSO Foundation are at the door with regards to receiving funding… (and there) is a very strong collaboration of partners and the potential influence to the agroecological sector is very exciting and powerful. The plan is ambitious, but it is equally realistic. SAOSO has a track record of success, and the organisation is well-positioned to achieve these goals. The plan is also timely, as there is growing interest in sustainable food systems around the world.”

Achievements under the KHSA

As the South African component of the KHSA project funded by GIZ comes to a close at the end of November 2023, we can reflect on all the achievements over the 2021-2023 period. 

  • 23 PGS practitioners were trained through the PGS EOA Pollinator training programme to establish PGS groups throughout South Africa.
  • 14 Co-Pollinators were trained to support the work of the Pollinators.
  • Expert support visits were provided to PGS groups. 
  • 50 Knowledge Products were created to support the uptake of PGS.
  • A dedicated PGS SA website was created. 
  • A webinar series on market development was delivered. 
  • An eight-part PGS Practitioner webinar series was delivered and attended by 338 people. 
  • The #ChooseOrganic campaign was launched nationally. 
  • 22 new PGS groups were formed with one group outside of South Africa in Lesotho. 
  • Of these, 16 groups are full members of PGS SA representing 459 farmers. 
  • 165 farm visits were undertaken, with 122 certified organic or organic-in-conversion to-date. 

Sustaining growth in the organic sector

The work started under the KHSA is at a critical stage and in order to ensure sustainability, continued funding is required so that all of the 122 certified farms are not at risk and can continue their journey to market. The initiatives that have begun and the future plans of the South African organic sector require long-term thinking, planning and funding and unfortunately, donor funding cycles are limited to short timeframes. 

Joint SA organic sector management committee secretary, Colleen Anderson, said: “We hope that the EOA-I Southern African cluster is launched soon to facilitate capacity building for SADC countries.”

The Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative (EOA-I) is an African Union-led continental undertaking to promote the uptake of ecological organic agriculture (EOA) on the African continent. The EOA-I was started in response to the African Heads of State and Governments’ call for the promotion of organic farming in Africa. The decision also called upon development partners to provide the relevant technical and financial support for the implementation of this decision. 

PGS Aggregators: Gauteng pilot projects launching

A key component of the PGS SA Value Chain and Market Development objective to increase agroecological agricultural production, develop sustainable markets and increase trade, is the formation of an aggregation model prototyped at Agri Hubs provincially. PGS SA is currently helping with the formation of three pilot PGS focused aggregators in Gauteng: iGoli PGS, Heirloom Foods, and Somandla. 

Head of joint operations for the SA organic sector management committee, Matt Purkis, said: “Aggregators are an essential and key component of the PGS model. Having that ethical traceability as well as certifications for all the farmers as part of that aggregation supply chain is really where the magic lies, with a percentage of that trade going back into the sustainability of the PGS group.”

OFOs explained: Moving the sector forward

Going forward, the sector will also focus on assisting groups of organic farmers with setting up Organic Farmers Organisations (OFOs), with the aim to consolidate and safeguard grassroots representation and develop the sector. These OFOs will be members of the Inter-Continental Network of Organic Farmer Organisations (INOFO). 

INOFO connects farmer groups to international platforms, ensuring that the needs and rights of local farmers are both acknowledged and safeguarded. INOFO collaborates on issues of mutual interest and represents organic farmers in forums with a legitimate voice, thereby elevating farmer influence and reach. Busisiwe Mgangxela was nominated and voted in by PGS groups to be the South African representative to INOFO. INOFO SA is currently being launched. 

Mgangxela said: “INOFO does not take individual farmers but organic farmer organisations (OFOs) and that is why it’s important that farmers join OFOs in their area so that they can apply for membership. INOFO is the leading organic farmers organisation, dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture globally, and orchestrates strategies that ensure food security for both the present and future generations.

“OFOs will be platforms from which communities of practice can grow and advocate for government and funder support, and assist in the country’s transition towards agroecological and organic practices. It is from these primary organisms that PGS initiatives will stem as a conduit for market access for farmers ready to sell their surplus where there is a demand for certified organic produce. These OFOS will be federated by the South African chapter of INOFO, which is also a division within SAOSO.” 

#ChooseOrganic: Jackson’s Real Food Market #MeetYourFarmer activations

Jackson’s Real Food Market in Kyalami, Johannesburg has wholeheartedly embraced the ongoing #ChooseOrganic campaign and invited customers to meet their farmers through an ongoing store campaign. 

Gary Jackson said: “Jackson’s focus is mainly on getting produce that is organically grown and pesticide free, and we are reliant on an audit-system called PGS where a group of farmers, retailers and customers audit a farm as to whether it’s organic or not. It’s transparent, fair and means that consumers get clean and ethical products that they can trust.”

Heirloom Farms in the East Rand of Johannesburg is one of their suppliers that they have nurtured into the retail space. Co-founder of Heirloom Foods and farmer, Caleb Lamprecht said: “Jackson’s were one of the biggest factors in our growth. They supported us for about seven months until we could get stable and scale up.

“The Heirloom Foods family have a massive vision for what we want to achieve. Our mission is to collapse the conventional food chain that is silently killing and weakening our population and inevitably do our part in healing the world.

“Jackson’s customers told us that some of them have been eating organic produce for over 20 years due to family health issues which were caused by chemicals in our food systems. They were happy to have a committed business behind the cause. They also said that they love the consistent quality of our organic produce but unfortunately the prices are too high. This is why I am committed to scaling up and putting a business model in place that allows people from all walks of life to take complete and utter care of their health. A lot of customers said they eat organic because they know it is an investment towards their health, no poisons, no chemicals.”

Pollinators in the news: Nandi Mkwanazi

PGS Pollinator and ecological organic agriculture practitioner, Nandi Mkwanazi, speaks about climate change, food sovereignty and the pressing issues facing agriculture in Africa. 

“As an organic farmer, my primary focus is on sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. I am deeply committed to producing food in a way that minimizes harm to the environment, preserves biodiversity, and supports the well-being of local communities.”

3 Minutes with Entrepreneur Nandi Mkwanazi: https://developmentdispatch.com/3-minutes-with-entrepreneur-nandi-mkwanazi/ 

Farmer tip: Fall armyworm natural management

The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, has invaded South Africa and farmers need to take it seriously to prevent widespread damage to crops. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has created the publication “Fall armyworm management: Farmer field school experiences in Africa”, a technical brief on fall armyworm management from the lens of Farmer Field Schools that outlines successes from previous projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Different mechanical, biological and environmental control methods are highlighted, as well as traditional home-made recipes for effective management. 

According to the FAO publication: “FAW larvae can feed on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. Several generations can occur in a year, and the moth can fly up to 100 km per night with support from the wind. FAW is a damaging pest that will continue to spread due to its biological characteristics and high volumes of trade among African countries. Farmers need substantial support to sustainably manage this new pest in

their cropping systems through integrated pest management (IPM) farming options. 

Dre Campbell Farm covers 13 natural ways to get rid of armyworm on plants with methods that include manual removal, spinosad, predatory wasps and neem oil. 

Webinar: Youth perspectives on ancient wisdom

Twelve youth from Southern Africa, in partnership with ISAN Magazine, Dzomo la Mupo, Earthrise Collective, Ancient Wisdom, Project Biome and Mycelium Media Colab, have designed a powerful webinar exploring the relevance of ancient wisdom in our modern times.

Theme: Our heritage, our future

Date: 13 December 2023

Time: 6 – 7pm SAST

Use the QR code to register or get in touch with shanti@projectbiome.org

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