Develop sustainable farming in rural South Africa

by Biowatch
A Community Facilitator
A Community Facilitator's Household Food Garden

“Who controls the seed, controls the food.” Fueled by this motto, Biowatch partners with farmers and communities to support sustainable farming. In rural South Africa, farmers are learning agro-ecological techniques that allow them to build stronger food supplies for their families and become part of a growing network that uses sustainable food production methods.

In May alone, over 80 farmers attended agro-ecology workshops in communities across South Africa. Small-scale farmers are given support and training in how to freely use, exchange and sell their seeds. These workshops are the seeds (no pun intended!) of a growing movement that is building viable alternatives to industrial agriculture.

Your generous support makes it possible for Biowatch to continue to grow its network and to have a real impact on local economies. Building on the low-cost alternatives presented in agro-ecology workshops, Biowatch recently provided specialized training to a group of farmers interested in marketing and selling their sustainably-grown produce in their communities. In this workshop, participants learned about the Participatory Guarantee System which is a community-based organic certification process. They also received training in branding and marketing and harnessed their creative energy to develop logos, like the one below that could be used to brand produce grown using agro-ecology principles.

Please help keep up the momentum created by these fantastic training workshops! Your generous donation will support sustainability, self-sufficiency and healthy communities. Thank you!

A Logo for Food Grown using Agro-Ecology
A Logo for Food Grown using Agro-Ecology

In order to promote agro-ecology, Biowatch focuses on farmer exchange programs where farmers from distant areas visit the organization's model sites to spend time with community facilitators and members involved in agro-ecology.

The visiting farmers are given hands-on exposure to the agro-ecology practices that are used and given the tools to farm using agro-ecological practices on their return to their home areas. This model of working has been extremely successful and promotes replication of agro-ecology to more people creating a multiplier effect.

Because of your support, Biowatch was able to host various farmer exchanges throughout the year. At one such exchange 26 farmers from KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were exposed to agro-ecological farming for 4 days in KwaHhohho, near Mtubatuba, and Pongola, both located in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The farmers in these areas have created both a community market garden and household food gardens and the visitors were able to take part in fieldwork with local farmers guiding their exposure to successful agro-ecological practices.

Discussions focused on seed banking, marketing, and lobbying local municipality and government departments for support for small scale farming. All of this gave the visiting farmers a well-rounded experience and comprehensive information they can use practically when they return home.

Thank you for your generosity- your donations are an integral part in making these educational farmer exchanges

In September, the merger between multinational Pioneer Hi-Bred Inc. and South Africa’s largest seed company, Pannar, was blocked. The merger would have ceded control of the local seed market to large seed companies that force farmers to grow GMO seeds.

Concerns about the merger were brought to the Competition Tribunal by Biowatch South Africa in November of 2010.

Biowatch South Africa’s Director, Rose Williams said, “we are extremely pleased that the Competition Tribunal has upheld the decision of the Competition Commission to not allow the merger. We believe that foreign control of our national seed industry runs counter to the broader national interests of food security and the conservation of crop diversity”.

This project continues to be effective- with your support- in its mission to protect and support farmers in South Africa, promoting local control of land and seed rights through political action and advocacy, community education, and community organization.

Your donations make a big difference! YOU are an important part of the sustainable farming movement in South Africa.

Following its successful legal battle against the multi-national agricultural corporation, Monsanto, Biowatch is furthering its mission to fight for food security.

Biowatch has taken a bold approach to developing new, effective advocacy strategies and interventions that will continue building on the capacity of local communities and small-scale farmers. 

They are working tirelessly to involve other stakeholders that include government departments such as Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries, Education, and Agriculture and Environmental Affairs to further assist communities in maintaining their social and environmental rights. 

With your support, Biowatch is also planning for new workshops and trainings where communities can gain knowledge and understanding of how genetically modified (GM) seeds impact the soil and cross-contaminate traditional seeds. 

These workshops will also provide soil improvement techniques to combat soil erosion and to increase soil fertility, which means better crop yields. Which means that communities who participate in the trainings are able to grow food for the families.

Though much remains to be accomplished, the impacts of Biowatch’s work have already been tremendous and clearly demonstrates their unwavering commitment to helping communities grow healthy food.

By giving today, you too are ensuring that rural communities in South Africa will have a sustainable and food secure future!

One of Biowatch's primary objectives is to promote seed diversity, seed saving and an agro-ecological approach to agriculture at the grassroots level. This is the over-riding objective of the project and has been the focus of the work in communities KwaHhohho, Ntandabantu, Tshaneni and Ekuthuleni.

In late 2010, the decision of the South African government NOT to allow Monsanto to buy the largest national seed producer was a huge victory for Biowatch activists, and a victory for small farmers that save domestic seeds. By keeping a seed bank, seeds from many different areas can be saved and used to grow indigenous crops. Other initiatives for seed diversity and a sustainalbe agro-ecological approach has included:

  • Training on agro–ecological farming systems for local farmers
  • GMO awareness and information on traditional seed varieties
  • Promoting seed diversity and seed saving in households with gardens and crops.

The gap in this work has been the provision of materials - which is why donations to this project go a long way. Thank you for your generosity. This work couldn't continue without grassroots funding!


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Organization Information


Location: Durban, KZN - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Gillian Wilson
IDEX Latin America Program Director
San Francisco, CA United States

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