How Do I Register as an Organic Farmer
Organic Farming in South Africa

© Afrisco
Afrisco is a South African organic certifier

The South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) is the umbrella under which PGS‐SA and Afrisco can help producers become formally recognised organic producers. The adoption and publication of the SAOSO Standards have paved the way for the relaunch of Afrisco. Initially, Afrisco will operate under the SAOSO umbrella, which together with collaboration with PGS‐SA, will form the basis of trust of the certified products.
There are three different processes by which trust – that products are truly organic – is established between producer and consumer.

1st Party: Face‐to‐face and Self‐claim

The producer and consumer have a personal relationship typically built through friendship, word‐of‐mouth and satisfying experience. The consumer pays the asking price based on this personal trust. The financial cost of the time and effort required to establish this trust may be considerable for both producer and consumer.

"Self‐claim" is where the producer makes unsubstantiated organic claims for the product, usually via the use of the word "organic" on the product label. The ignorant consumer places their trust in the product and carries the risk of buying an inferior, ethically dubious product.

2nd Party: Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS)

The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) introduced Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) as a recognised peer‐review system. PGS certification is suitable for short-value chain marketing – for example where producers would deliver their products to farmer’s markets. Through PGS producers provide a formal guarantee that their products have been produced according to a recognised set of organic standards. In South Africa we use the term ‘PGS Endorsed'.
PGS's are based on group effort. Typically, they consist of a group of producers, consumers and market operators, possibly assisted by an organic agriculture expert. The group bases their standards on internationally recognised standards. In South Africa these are the SAOSO standards, a member of the IFOAM Family of Standards and thus have international recognition.
The group also develops a set of assessment and record keeping documents. Members of the group (who are in fact the peers) visit producers on a rotational basis for the annual assessment. The findings of the assessment are documented and communicated to the producer. These include any possible "non‐conformities". Upon resolution of the non‐conformities the producer is then allowed to use the PGS logo and may sell their products at the associated markets.
PGS‐SA (Participatory Guarantee Systems – South Africa) is the national body overseeing individual PGS' in called South Africa.

3rd Party Certification: AFRISCO

Third-party certification of prospective organic farmers is done by a certification body. This option is suitable for long‐value chain marketing (for example when you delivered processed organic products to a retailer) or those producers for whom PGS is not an option. Third-party certification is a formal process which includes the exchange of documents and a site audit. A certificate is issued upon the successful completion of this process.
So, how do I become formally recognised as an organic farmer?
The PGS option:
Is there a PGS operating in your area? If so, become a member.
If not, are there other producers and a farmers' market nearby who may be interested in establishing a PGS?
The Afrisco option:
If for any reason the PGS option does not suit you, or you wish to access long-value chain domestic markets such as retailers, then apply to Afrisco.
Afrisco in collaboration with SAOSO and PGS‐SA will ensure the natural progression from PGS membership to Afrisco certification for those producers who wish to access domestic long‐value chain (a long process from raw materials to finished good) markets.
Groups of small‐scale farmers can form a "Grower Group" and apply to Afrisco for “Group Certification”.
Producers can apply for Afrisco certification on an individual basis.

By Stephen Barrow