How PGS Makes Sure Your Food is Grown Organically

This year, South Africa has extended National Nutrition Week to include the National Obesity Week, making the 9th – 19th of October National Nutrition and Obesity Week (NNOW2018).

The theme: “Breakfast – the best way to start your day” was chosen to highlight the importance of the meal and the evidence that 1 in 5 kids skip breakfast in South Africa. While skipping breakfast is known to hamper energy levels in children, so too is eating a breakfast of little nutritional value, like one laden with sugar.

“Eating a healthy breakfast regularly influences brainpower and physical energy on a day-to-day basis. It also affects health over the longer term, as studies have drawn associations with reducing risks of heart disease and strokes, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.” –

In commemorating the importance of this event and good nutrition, we at Abundance Wholesome Foods would like to celebrate the heroes who bring us nutrient-rich, clean food – organic food. As we know, nutritious breakfasts include grains, fruits and vegetables in the form of porridge/ amabele/ sorghum or rolled oats; fruit and vegetable smoothies and plant-based milks, among other food groups. We visited some small-scale organic farmers in Gauteng who grow organic crops that we can incorporate into our breakfasts and other meals, and they operate under the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) to ensure their crops are “clean”.

What are the Participatory Guarantee Systems?

“Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) 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,” says the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM – Organics International). They fully back these local systems as an alternative and way of balancing third-party certification of organic producers, and campaign worldwide for its recognition by governments. Third-party certification is usually too expensive for a small-scale farmer who can’t rely on international exports to cover the costs, and PGS is a response to customer assurance that the food they are buying is truly organic.

PGS Bryanston MarketPGS in South Africa

PGS South Africa was established in 2011, even though PGS has been in existence for more than 40 years in other countries. As a locally focused system, processes and procedures vary but the “key elements and features” remain the same all over the world. The Bryanston Organic and Natural Market – which is 42 years old this year – established Bryanston Market PGS in 2005 as a response to their customers need for organic assurance. It is a cost-effective and user-friendly audit system for the smallholder farmer. Bryanston Market PGS is currently supporting the development of satellite PGS groups around Johannesburg through a mentoring process. Once established, PGS communities may choose to establish their own identity or stay within the Bryanston Market PGS group.

Audrey Wainwright, committee member of Bryanston Market PGS says, “The collaborative principles of PGS not only serve consumers right to know how their food is grown but crucially, enable market access for smallholder farmers practising the sustainable and regenerative production methods of organic agriculture. In a world governed by rules and regulations that benefit monopolies it is time for communities to reclaim their role in the food system. PGS supports food sovereignty”.

The Six Basic Key Elements of PGS

  1. Shared vision of organic agriculture
  2. Participation of all stakeholders, farmers, markets and customers
  3. Transparency and open to scrutiny
  4. Trust assuring integrity
  5. Learning Procesess of exchanging knowledge and sharing experiences
  6. Horizontality PGSs are intended to be non-hierarchical. This is reflected in the overall democratic structure and through the collective responsibility of the PGS.

“While PGS are systems for market access it serves a far deeper purpose in the sustainability and well-being of soil, plants, animals, humans and the planet.”

PGSAll farmer members get an annual documented farm visit led by the Bryanston Market PGS, which includes other farmers, organic retailers, customers and other stakeholders or community members. Using as their reference the SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing, the evaluation takes place by looking at elements like the organic agriculture principles and ecosystems, i.e. history of land and soil, crop control, pest control, water management, harvesting and hygiene, as well as social responsibility, which includes labour practises. The farmer is then issued a report and a PGS certificate confirming the farmers’ compliance to organic principles. All farmer members sign a pledge in which they commit to organic agriculture principles as defined by IFOAM – Organics International. If they do not qualify, the PGS group will reschedule the farm visit and approved PGS farmers will assist with advice where they can. There are pre-agreed upon consequences for transgressions, which are there to protect the integrity of the membership and the organic claims.

Look for the logo!

As a consumer, wherever you see the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) logo confirming the farmer is farming through organic principles, you are guaranteed true organic fresh produce at that retailer! The only way to guarantee that the food you’re eating is “clean” is to buy organic. In order for organic farmers to stay in business we need to support organisations like PGS South Africa who support the adoption of PGS countrywide and the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO). Not only is this good for the economy, it forces retailers to stop importing cheap, nutrition-poor foods that are likely to be contaminated with pathogens. Know where your food come from because it could be killing you.

Now that you know what to look for when buying your fruits, herbs and vegetables, visit www.nutritionweek for more information and nutritious recipes. And support your local PGS smallholder organic farmer!

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