SAOSO offers support to small scale farmers
There are three key areas that have emerged from research as to the needs of farmers:
Training appears to be the most urgent need. Coupled with mentoring and support for Organic Production and Agroecology Practices (OPAP);
Financial support to farmers is currently linked to conventional inputs;
Market access and its infrastructure requirements such as processing and packaging facilities for the production of added value products as well as refrigerated storage and transport needs to be supported.
SAOSO will endorse training organisations whose curricula support organic agriculture.
SAOSO’s approach will be to form alliances with existing training organisations and to lobby for existing agricultural training colleges to include Agroecology training programs.
Aligning these new curricula to existing SAQA, (South African Qualifications Authority), accredited courses will be made possible as there is a valid need to advocate for training programmes that educate using environmentally sustainable farming methods, where the farmers are trained on how to rotate crops, use cover crops for fertility, practice companion planting, implement soft path technologies (alternative and renewable energy sources), natural pesticide and disease management, the essentials of good compost and soil fertility, organic livestock management and welfare and farm-level value added processing.
We are building to provide support to farmers falling under the land reform programme
Currently, most government support to farmer’s falls under the land reform program in the form of loans aligned to land redistribution and promotes conservation agriculture i.e. GMO’s and herbicides.
It can take up to three years to transition to Organic Farming Practices, and little support is given to the farmer choosing a regenerative approach. Higher prices will only accrue to the farmer once his farm and processes can be considered organic or PGS endorsed.
Farmers may experience reduced yields during the conversion process. However during this period of building up a healthy soil profile, that is organic in nature and thriving with beneficial microbial life, we take a giant leap closer to utilising any piece of land in best practice. When we farm sustainably we see more sustainable results and solutions specific to the farmer. Sustainable farming practices reduce the amount of pesticides and fertiliser that enter watercourses and poison ecosystems.
Lobbying Government to recognise the need for alternative support is one of SAOSO’s objectives. Educating farmers on the benefits of forming cooperatives and assisting with the processes will be part of the support given to smallholder farmers. Government support for cooperatives to generate business opportunities is well documented and supported. SAOSO will also provide the channels to successfully access the marketplace as well as assistance in becoming Certified Organic. Read more about Organic Certification and PGS (Participatory Guarantee System), here.
The consumption of organic produce exceeds production in South Africa and most of our organic foods are imported from other countries. Moreover, farmers and experts from various institutions have acknowledged the potential of Organic and Agroecology to outperform conventional agriculture. These positive yields come with a regeneration of the natural ecology and preservation of our seed varieties that often times are more resistant during times of drought and hold a higher nutritional value.
SAOSO is building its network with organisations that are offering farmers innovative technical support; e.g. mobile applications linking organic farmers to central Agri-processing centres; facilitating access to market information on prices and product demand and linking farmers with consumers.
Water-scarce countries like South Africa must turn to more regenerative farming practices.
Along with the arrival of a water crisis, comes an even more uncertain food security for our country. These issues highlight the dire need for a new approach to food production, supply and distribution.
It is regenerative farming practices, that will build soil life and assist farmers to carefully manage water. This is the road toward food-sovereignty - a sustainable food system for the people and by the people.
Localised value networks of collectives and food hubs
The profitability of any business is linked to market access. For smallholder farmers with limited access to large markets whose requirements create barriers to entry, this can be challenging, particularly for an organic farmer.
Restrictions can come in many shapes and forms, for example the expense of a cold storage food transport system is not viable for smaller farmers, however, when linked to an Agri-hub where processing, packing, and transportation takes place on a larger scale, we alleviate the need for multiple, small, possibly unprofitable individual infrastructure.