Organically Grown (as far as possible)
Although our vegetables cannot be certified organic, they are grown organically as far is possible using no pesticides nor poisons. Below is the process that our farmers follow.
1. Build the soil with the use of compost and manure (non organic)
The soil is the heart of the garden (except of course our farmers) and we work hard to build the soil all the time. Many of our gardens make small quantities of compost themselves and we support them with subsidized manure where needed. All soil and farming methods are supervised and supported by our field workers and soil scientist.
2. No chemical inputs
We encourage the use of herb teas such as comfrey, which supply extra nutrients. Pest and disease control is managed by picking off pests by hand, through crop rotation, and diversification. The South Easter wind also does a magnificent, natural job. If absolutely necessary, an organically certified spray may be used.
3. Crop rotation
We assist gardens with production planning to ensure that proper crop rotation is practiced. This means that the same vegetables are not grown in the same soil year after year. Crop rotation helps with pest and disease control, weed control, soil structure and soil fertility.
4. Windbreaks and basic herbs
Many gardens are planted with windbreaks and a selection of herbs for medicinal and culinary use. Abalimi has a long-term plan to introduce the above to all, thus encouraging biodiversity in every garden.
5. Companion planting
We encourage companion planting in every garden. Companion planting involves planting not only vegetables, but also herbs and ornamental plants that attract beneficial insects. It is based on the principle that certain plants can attract or repel insects and provide beneficial support to other plants.
Mulch provides a blanket covering of organic material over beds. It helps to reduce pests and also prevents the ground from losing water and drying out, particularly important with the drying Cape South Easter. We supply mulching material from our garden centres in Khayelitsha and Nyanga. We also encourage people to source their own mulching material such as leaves.
7. Seedling production (non organic)
At this stage it is very difficult to source organically certified seedlings so, for reliable production, we buy in seedlings from a non-organic source. Garden centres are encouraged to produce seedlings where possible.
Record keeping is one of the most important principles of organic farming. It enables us to follow the process from seed, to plant, to final product and later pinpoint the stage at which something went wrong, if it should. Traceability is highly encouraged amoungst our micro-farmers.
9. Harvesting, collection and distribution
A simple harvest procedure is followed whereby produce is picked and given a wash with tap water in each garden. It is then collected by vehicle and brought to the Harvest of Hope pack shed in Philippi. Here it is washed and scrubbed properly and packed into boxes ready to be distributed to customers. We do however recommend all vegetables are washed before being eaten.
10. Soil and water testing
In order to manage any risk of contamination from surrounding informal settlements, Abalimi carries out bi-annual water nitrate and soil fertility tests to check for contaminants at each micro-farm. These tests will pick up early signs of ground water contamination. If there are any confirmation of contamination, Harvest of Hope will not sell these vegetables.
Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS)
“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
PGS develop where there is shared need. Smallholder organic farmers have surplus and consumers are looking for organic assurance. Worldwide, PGS is seen as a complimentary alternative to third-party organic certification for smallholder farmers and producers.
Ten key features of PGS:
1. Grassroots Organization – managed horizontally and with equal participation.
2. Seals or labels providing evidence of organic status.
3. A commitment document, e.g. a farmer’s pledge stating agreement with the established norms.
4. Clear and previously defined consequences for non-compliance.
5. Mechanisms for supporting farmers to produce organic products and be recognized as organic farmers.
6. Mechanisms to verify farmer’s compliance to the established norms and systems of production.
7. Documented management systems and procedures.
8. Principles and values that enhance the livelihoods of farming families and promote organic agriculture.
9. Suitable to smallholder agriculture.
10. Norms conceived by the stakeholders through a democratic and participatory process.
Visit the Western Cape PGS Facebook page by clicking here.