Basic production principles for PGS South Africa:
Organic agriculture is often described in the negative: farming without the use of synthetic fertilisers, without pesticides and not using genetically modified organisms. Organic agriculture should rather be described in positive terms, as a proactive farming system utilising workable alternatives to chemical/industrial agriculture. The production principles of PGSSA are written from this perspective – focusing on what the grower should be doing to qualify as an organic farmer.
These principles are based on the private standards of AFRISCO (http://www.afrisco.net/), widely used in Southern Africa, and in compliance with the draft South African Regulations on Organic Production. The standard and the regulations describe specifics on allowed inputs, various technical specifications and addenda for allowed substances, exceptions and the like. The principles below are in harmony with these standards, and should not be seen as a substitute, but rather as a complimentary framework; written in language that all participants can understand, in the positive spirit of participation and integrity – cornerstones of any participatory guarantee system.
Definition of organic agriculture:
PGS South Africa (PGSSA) operates within the principles and guidelines of IFOAM – (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) – and therefore adopts as its definition of organic agriculture the IFOAM definition:
"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."
1. Soil Management:
Organic agriculture starts with the soil. It is a basic principle that plant health is dependent on soil health. The farm must have a clear soil fertility management system in place. This system should include the following:
a. Mechanisms to increase levels of organic matter in the soil such as the addition of animal manure, compost, mulch, "green manures" and cover crops with the resultant addition of beneficial microbes to assist with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.
b. These inputs should be sourced as follows (in order of preference):
i. Manufactured/produced on-farm, using local materials.
ii. Sourced locally from neighbouring farms or groups. Animal manure must be composted prior to application, and must be sourced from farms under organic management, or from extensive farming practice. Manure from industrial/factory farming is NOT permitted.
iii. Purchased from approved suppliers.
Soil PH and mineral balance:
It is understood that soils cannot always be balanced for optimal plant production through the principles described in a. and b. The addition of minerals/mineral salts will be allowed as long as the inputs are:
i. Naturally sourced in compliance with the guiding Standards.
ii. Preferably applied following a soil analysis to ensure correct balance.
iii. The use of synthetic fertilisers (agro-chemicals) is expressly forbidden.
2. Plant Management:
A planned system of planting, incorporating ecological principles to ensure preventative pest management and to promote the life cycles of beneficial animals/insects. A system should include the following:
ii. Crop rotation
iii. Biodiversity management
iv. Green manure/cover crops.
• Seed/seedling Management:
The principle of seed harvesting and –banking should be the guideline. This, in conjunction with setting up seed exchange networks should be promoted. If seeds/seedlings are purchased, it should be according to the following principles:
- i. Purchase organic seeds or seedlings from a verifiable source.
- ii. If organic seeds or seedlings are not available, conventionally grownseed/seedlings may be used with the approval of the PGS assessment team.
- iii. Any GM seeds or seedlings are expressly forbidden in organic agriculture.
3. Water Management:
The principles of sustainable resource management and water safety are the two main guidelines.
a. Water use should be managed to ensure water conservation and recycling/reuse wherever possible.
b. Water must be fit for irrigation purposes and should be tested annually for safety.
4. Management of ecosystem:
The organic farm is an element within an environment or ecosystem. The balanced management and maintenance of this system is an important factor in organic production. Management practice should include:
a. Sustainable land management – slash and burn practices to make land available will not be allowed.
b. Wetlands and critical breeding grounds for birds and animals must be protected.
c. Virgin land and forests should be protected and utilised according to environmental statutes.
d. If products are being wild harvested, harvest areas concerned should be clearly recorded and documented and harvesting practice should be in accordance with environmental principles to ensure sustainability. The wild harvest areas should furthermore be safe from any contamination, whether it be agrochemical or industrial pollutants.
5. Pest and Disease Management:
It should be understood that all the preceding production principles, if correctly practised, should minimise the necessity of additional pest and disease control. If
a. Soils are healthy and balanced,
b. plants are planted according to ecological principles,
c. the water source is clean,
d. and the local ecosystem is correctly managed;
Plants and animals will be healthy, and therefore pest and disease control should be minimal. It is understood that the farmer does not have complete control over all these factors and that imbalances will result in pest and disease outbreaks. These should be controlled in the following order of preference:
a. Planting of pest-repellent plants and borders.
b. Using approved mixtures of natural products or extracts made on the farm to control or repel pests/diseases.
c. Biodynamic and other approved microbial preparations.
d. Products approved for use in organic agriculture.
e. Commercial chemical pesticides and herbicides may not be used in organic agriculture.
6. Pollution and contaminant control:
Any farm or production facility runs the risk of being contaminated by chemical and industrial pollutants, by spray drift from nearby chemical farms, runoff from roads, etc. If any of these risks are apparent in or around the farm, management strategies to prevent such contamination should be in place. These may include:
a. Buffer zones and buffer plants on farm perimeter as well as buffer zones on-farm to prevent any possible contaminant spread.
b. Separate storage of petrochemicals, such as paints, fuel, oil cleaning agents.
c. Proper cleaning and rinsing of all equipment and tools to prevent contamination of products.
7. Harvesting and packaging
a. All equipment, vehicles and re-usable containers shall be properly cleaned and free from residues before being used for organically produced products.
b. Material used for packaging shall not contaminate the products and the use thereof shall take into consideration the effect it may have on the environment. The use of recycled and recyclable packaging should be promoted, and packaging should be limited to the absolute minimum.
c. Packaging materials, storage containers, or bins that contain a synthetic fungicide, preservative, or fumigant are prohibited.
8. Cleaning, disinfecting and sanitation
a. Only cleaning and disinfecting agents approved for use in organic production may be used.
b. Procedures in line with standard food handling practice should be in place to ensure food safety.
9. Social equity and justice
a. Employment practice should be in accordance of the IFOAM Organic principles of health, fairness and care, South African labour legislation and the Constitution.
b. The rights of children should also be in accordance with the above principles to ensure that their rights to having a happy, safe and rewarding childhood are respected.
10. Documentation and records
The individual farmer or the administrative centre for farmer groups or support organisations should have an accessible and appropriate set of records including the following:
a. Maps and or sketches of the farm, production and/or harvest areas.
b. Records of all purchases/donations of inputs into the farming system.
c. Planting, harvesting and sales records. Products sold into a PGSSA value chain will be recorded on an invoice book or electronic system developed by PGSSA.
These records do not need to be forwarded to the PGSSA administration, but must be available during routine assessments. The records may be in any format appropriate to the size and administrative capacity of the farmer/group, provided that it can be understood by the assessors, and provides clear evidence of purchasing, production and sales integrity. PGSSA will be sensitive to and supportive of emerging farmers who might have difficulty with maintaining such records.
It should be clearly understood, that these production principles are a summary based on the Draft Regulations published by the South African government and the AFRISCO Standard, and that all practices, inputs and limitations should be assessed according to the complete Standards. This set of principles is published as a simplified and accessible document, in effect translating the Standards into a format suitable for the PGSSA stakeholders. Non-compliance and decisions for acceptance will be based on the Standards.
©PGSSA - November 2010
Author: Konrad Hauptfleisch