Its day three in the Solomon Islands, this morning we are doing our first session with NAASA on the ins and outs of getting certified organic. We had 33 attendees, from bee farmers to coconuts, noni to kava. The local people here have heard that organic products are in demand, which not only make a difference to the earth, but can be used as a marketing tool to increase their local market and international export.
The session is ran by Kathe, the NAASA auditor and trainer, who is VERY passionate and knowledgeable on all things organic. She has over 20 years’ experience and has even had her own backyard certified. :-) Everyone here knows the basics, that organic means farming without the use of chemicals. What no one knew, was the intricate process of getting certified, which isn't simple or cheap! One of the major problems here is that there are no local inspectors in the Solomon's, meaning the business being certified has to pay for someone to fly in and stay for a while and do inspections – every. single. year.
Apart from the huge pile of paperwork I had unknowingly just committed myself to, I learnt some really important things about being organic which id never heard before. Being organic, certified organic, means so much more than chem free farming. And as someone who cares deeply about making change and improving the earth, and being a believer in that business can be a force of good, I was pretty happy with what I learnt.
What it really means to be certified organic:
YOU ARE SUPPORTED.
As a certified company, you become part of a “grower group”, following the rules of organic certification and being inspected at least once a year. A requirement is that your group has internal support and receives regular training when needed, fairly and equally. Tick.
THE LAND IS PROTECTED.
Not just from chemicals. The organic standards include the land being protected from genetically modified organisms, which we know causes ecological damage and is harmful to human health. Also any equipment used must not contaminate the land or produce too.
THE LAND IS IMPORVED.
You must maintain AND improve the soil, preventing erosion, building organic matter and increasing fertility. The land must also be bio-diverse for insects, animals and other plants. The crops must be rotated or permanent crops must have a diverse plant understory. Water is obviously not contaminated, but its use must also be carefully managed. Even your compost is checked to be well made, sweet smelling and finished.
ANIMALS ARE TREATED RIGHT.
Even if you are farming, let's say coconuts, any animals on the land must still be treated right. This means all animals are not in any way treated cruelly and are not contaminated with medicines, even your pets.
ITS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU AND YOUR FARM.
To get certified, the transport, storage and handling also gets checked.
ITS GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE.
Social justice is actually a requirement to be certified. This really surprised me as it's something I haven't thought about. The workers must be treated fairly, paid reasonable rates and (depending on the location) children must go to school instead of working.
So organic really is a better choice for everyone. From the farmers, the consumers, the animals and the planet.
Next time your buying products, I'd like you to think of yourself as doing the right thing, taking one small positive step to help change the world.
Up next on the blog: We visit Makira, basically a whole organic island of beauty, where people use traditional practices and still live off the land.