Using fieldmargin to organise smallholder organic farming in South Africa

Using fieldmargin to organise smallholder organic farming in South Africa

Wayne Adams farms at the Green life Sanctuary, a family run smallholding in South Africa near Johannesburg. They grow a wide range of vegetables organically following IFOAM organic standards which they sell at the local market and a few retailers. He says his customers really appreciate the diversity and quality of his produce. Wayne uses fieldmargin to map his farm, plan tasks and record plant observations.  

Wayne uses an organic agriculture system because he wants to sustain the health of soil, ecosystems and people. He believes that the key to smallholder and organic farming is developing innovative and effective new methods. Keeping detailed records helps with this as it allows the farmer to track what methods work so they can be replicated and shared with others. The hope is that adoption of these learnings will make a real difference to the finances of smallholder farmers.  Wayne finds that saving records is really quick and easy to do using the fieldmargin app with geo-tagged notes and tasks. 

“I hope that by keeping organised records that I can learn, inspire, guide, teach, and motivate someone, somewhere to try something new that can benefit nature. I love the mapping, data recording and planning functionality of fieldmargin. I find the web app really great for adding details but the mobile interface is handy for on-the-go updates.” 

Wayne uses fieldmargin as a tool for field observations. He regularly walks round his farm noting what work he has to do and adds photographs.

“I currently record and collect feeding routines, irrigation information, planting, germination and harvesting information. After harvest I record the product quality and sometimes information from the market. I also note pest occurrences with the preventative and curative actions I take.”  

Wayne has started to record rainfall readings using monitoring sites. Previously he relied on paper-based records which were not so useful to see trends in, weather channels and some web predictions. 

“Collecting and monitoring my own rainfall has a real impact on deciding sowing and harvest dates.  For example with the changing weather patterns noted in the past few years, records can be kept to determine when seedlings should be started and last harvests can be expected.” 

A major challenge for smallholder farmers in South Africa is the lack of suitable record keeping and planning systems – particularly that are affordable for small farms. This acts as a barrier for farmers’ produce to enter formal markets as they can’t get assurance of the quality of their produce without records to prove their methods of production. Wayne believes fieldmargin has the potential to help this issue in the future by being a communication tool that allows smallholder farmers to enter the formalised organic value chain, allowing them to command a better price for their produce. Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems that work together for social networks and knowledge exchange. 

 “I am sharing this app with others in our PGS network as I feel it’s great for the emerging farmers and smallholders who cannot afford expensive tech. This is the app I have been looking for!”

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