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Busisiwe Mgangxela is an organic farmer in the Republic of South Africa and Manvester Ackson is an Agri-Consult Farmer from Malawi. They participated in the Training of Teams of Trainers (ToToT) in the Republic of South Africa. These trainings are conducted as part of the Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa (KCOA) in partnership with the Sustainability Institute and implemented in cooperation with IFOAM – Organics International’s training program: The Organic Academy.

Looking at previous courses you had, how was the ToToT different?

Busisiwe: This was more advanced. It went beyond basic farming activities and principles and instead put emphasis on how I can become a trainer. We started the program from scratch which was a brilliant idea because it gave me the opportunity to learn about other topics I didn’t know very much, for example, True Cost Accounting. We got to do farm visits where we saw the actual efforts and challenges farmers face and not just looking at the theoretical challenges. This is where empathy prevailed; being able to put ourselves in the shoes of the farmers producing our food.

The participants having an interactive session

It was also great to see the videos showing the experiences of farmers from other countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and India. It was reassuring to know and feel that we are not alone on this journey of organic farming.

Manvester: It was rich in information and well organized. This was not my first training; however, it was my first interaction with IFOAM – Organics International and I must say, there was a high level of participation in contrast with the others. This was unique because it gave us the opportunity as trainees to contribute to spreading the word of organic. I attended physically so I was fortunate to have very interactive sessions with others.

An impression of the experience

How has the training impacted you?

Busisiwe: It put a focus on the importance of organic farmers who grow our food and the need for consumers to know who grows their food, including the inputs added. I was impressed by the power of networking, the facilitation techniques used, for instance, the fish bowl that I had no prior experience with, and the availability of information on three different websites; Organic Africa, Access Agriculture and Infonet.

Manvester: Organic farming is a job that requires the engagement of others and does not rely on only an individual. To mitigate the impact of food insecurity, we need to work in harmony to make this a reality.

The participants visited an organic farm where the farmers shared about their challenges. Visit #IGrowYourFood to learn more

With all these experiences from the ToToT, how will you integrate what you learnt in the work you do?

Manvester: I have trained several farmers but this time it will be different. In the past, we as facilitators used to dominate the training and yet the farmers have a lot of knowledge to share. We went to just impart knowledge but not hear them out. This time, I will listen moreI would like to train more farmers in organic farming systems and how to reduce the use of synthetic inputs. 

Busisiwe: I will map out my community to identify the network of suppliers and how many are a Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) group. I will use this information to know who to target when conducting training on organic agriculture while taking into consideration the age of the group, gender, education, information access and language use. This will help me convey the training on the benefits of organic agriculture much better.

Participants presenting their ideas of how they will carry out their projects

Why do you think organic important?

Busisiwe: Organic agriculture offers sustainability and resilience. It promotes seed saving, traditional seeds that have been lost but can be revived through family and community seed saving. It also embraces soil health which is a very important factor in growing healthy food to feed us and future generations. 

Manvester: It is a practice that preserves the ecological system without harming it. It enables us to enjoy the benefits of having a diverse ecosystem, something that allows for us to continue thriving as a species.

Do you have a message for the consumers on how to support and promote organic?

Manvester: They should know who produces their food and in what way it is produced. We need to sustain good practices that guarantee continuity and growing food organically is the best one.

Busisiwe: Please know how your food is produced, what inputs are used in your food and know your farmer. You can start by listening to the challenges they encounter, for example, through the #IGrowYourFood initiative. Also, get involved with the PGS groups in your community to have more understanding and knowledge of how your food is grown. The only way to guarantee that your food is produced in a sustainable way without harmful inputs is by buying organic.

The Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa (KCOA) project is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). As part of the project, Trainings of Teams of Trainers (ToToTo) are implemented in cooperation with IFOAM – Organics International and its training program: The Organic Academy in partnership with the Sustainability Institute in the Republic of South Africa. These trainings aim to address Capacity Development Processes for Ecological Organic Agriculture in Africa at Continental and National Level.

Find out more about TOTOT