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Organic agriculture in South Africa and It’s Pioneers…Part 4 of “What’s all the fuss about organic”…

organic-farmingOrganic farming in South Africa has its roots in the Indigenous knowledge of all the tribes of the sub-continent.

One of the first, most widely known pioneers was the late Robert Mazibuko (1904-1994). While training to become a teacher, he was introduced to organic farming at St. Francis teachers College at Marianhill Monastery. Later he studied conventional farming practices at Fort Cox (Middledrift, Cape). He believed that of the two, organic farming was better suited for Africa. His method is known as “Trench farming”-Compost only-from grass cutting, vegetable peels, chicken dropping. This method does not use pesticides, chemical fertiliser or herbicides.

Other pioneers include Catherine Parnell who met Lady Balfour in the early 1960’s in England. When she returned to South Africa, she promoted these principals at her local garden club, and soon after this they changed the name of the club to “Organic Soil Association of Southern Africa”

Marie Roux who in 1965 founded “Operation GROW” which encouraged residents living in Soweto to learn the skills needed to grow vegetables for their community organically.

Pauline Raphaely and Joy Niland who started “Food Gardens Unlimited” in 1977. This organization had a vision to reduce people’s dependency on food hand-outs from charity organizations and teach them to help themselves by growing fresh vegetables produced with organic sustainable principles. This ifoamgroup continues today as the Food Gardens Foundation.

There have been organic associations in South Africa, but for some reason, none have survived. What does exist is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements of which South Africa is a member. You can find out more about them here. http://www.ifoam.bio/en/south-africa

robert-mazibukoI would like to end with a quote from Mr Robert Mazibuko: “Blessed is the nation that respects the soil for it shall never starve. One day the gold, silver and diamonds will be finished, but we shall always have the soil and we have to use it properly.”


2 thoughts on “Organic agriculture in South Africa and It’s Pioneers…Part 4 of “What’s all the fuss about organic”…

  1. I am glad to see tribute paid to Marie Roux, who taught a whole generation about composting, recycling and outreach. She worked in Soweto with the slogan “Don’t feed your dustbin, feed the soil”. She and Catherine Parnell and Pauline Raphaely and Joy Niland were all around the Parktown office, which had a great library, where I read John Dixon’s “Farmers of forty centuries”.
    Pauline was the only one who could Afford to go to Versailles for the founding conference of IFOAM in 1972, and we (OSASA) sent her as our representative. In 1972 I started my apprenticeship in bio-dynamic vegetables with Ingrid Adler at Campholl Hermanus, and in 1973, with help from Guy Wertheim-Aymes, I went off to Australia to do my bio-dynamic apprenticeship under Alexei Podolinsky for the next four years. I then came back and farmed organically, then trained organic farmers and now am busy with organic research and policy work at Nelson Mandela University. From end 1976 to 1992 I worked with Robert Mazibuko, first doing a course at his Africa Tree Centre in Edendale, and later as Chair of the Board of Africa Tree Centre Trust. Thanks for caring for the history! Prof Raymond Auerbach.

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