Organic’ in the sense of agriculture refers to food or food products, grown in an environment free from artificial agrichemicals, and possibly certified by a regulatory body. That is basically what organic farming is all about. The practise of organic farming has been steadily growing over the past few years. This stems, in part, from the growing advocacy for things to be done in a manner that protects or restores the environment. Environmental social governance (ESG) has become such a topical subject in this age. There are exciting prospects in organic farming; in this article, I will cover some basic things you need to know.

Organic Farming – Defined Further

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), organic farming is an integrated farming method that aims for biodiversity, soil fertility enhancement, and biological diversity while banning synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones with rare exceptions. There is a complete elimination of any artificial agrichemicals in the farming process. There are rare instances of when some artificial inputs can be excused; very rare! For example, some pesticides or fertilizers can be produced naturally – these can be used in organic farming.

The Growing Demand For Organic Foods

We now live in a time where more and more are becoming highly conscious of the implications of what they eat. People now have an appreciation of how the use of artificial agrichemicals has negative effects on human health. This comes from the food produced and pollution of the environment e.g. washing off or seeping of chemicals into water sources. The use of organic methods also tends to consume less energy. Depletion of natural resources is significantly averted through organic farming.

All this and more have made organic farming such an attractive agribusiness and food focus. There are many upsides for multiple beneficiaries from the practice of organic farming. As such it is highly recommended for farmers to adopt organic farming practices. The major thrust is to ensure you get organically certified. Once you do that, I cannot even fully capture the doors that will be opened for you – your market becomes global.

Organic Farming Certification

Organic farming certification is a full circle process. It is a verification process that seeks to ratify that laid down organic farming standards are fully adhered to. It is not like only the produce or end product is what is assessed. Inspections start right from the seed through to the end. Ultimately getting certified is a result of a rigorous inspection and assessment process. There are many organic certification bodies across the world. We do have some here in Zimbabwe as well; few though. The key performance indicators or elements they assess vary. Regardless, here is a basic overview of some of the areas looked at:

  • Are artificial chemicals excluded?
  • Is biodiversity being promoted and protected?
  • Is crop rotation being practised?
  • Are GMOs excluded?
  • Are pests being controlled biologically?
  • Is recycling of waste that is not biodegradable being done?

Some of the key players in organic certification in Zimbabwe include ZimTrade. What they do is that they link-local Zimbabwe producers to export markets e.g. Europe. The destination countries have certification bodies that define what the local producers must adhere to be organically certified. Thus it is largely a collaborative effort between those bodies and ZimTrade. Another example of noteworthy local mention is Zoppa Trust. They train farmers in organic standards knowledge, application, and compliance, establishing organic compliance systems, and setting up internal control systems (for third party certification). Zoppa has two registered organic certification labels namely, Zim Organic and Zim Natural.

Organic farming is now a multibillion-dollar global industry. However, Africa is the lowest organic farming producer in the world. This means there is vast untapped potential in organic farming on the continent. The gap is even larger when you consider Zimbabwe as a country. There are also gaps in terms of organic certification bodies. There are very few of them in Zimbabwe which in itself is a business opportunity. You can work on putting together a framework for organic farming certification. This will culminate in a registered organic certification label farmers can apply for. Overall, organic farming produce is healthier, has higher market value, and is well-suited for the export market.