F.A.Q’S – Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by the term Permaculture?

Permaculture is about designing sustainable human settlements. It is a philosophical approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, water management and human needs into intricately connected productive communities. It is a design system allowing you to make the correct decisions for your local needs in an ecological and sustainable way. It leads to sustainable “permanent agriculture” and or “permanent culture”.

What is organic Agriculture?

Organic agricultural practice is based upon the observation and the use of natural processes. Those natural processes that happen within an ecological habitat are mimicked and duplicated within the farming system. Fertilizers are taken from life forms under the premise that ‘life begets life’. The soil is fed directly and not the plant . It comes from a recognition that N.P. & K as elements are not as important as the Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium processes that naturally take place within the soil. When organic matter is included into the soil the natural soil processes make the elements themselves become available. These fundamental soil life processes are continually happening and are named decomposition, humification and mineralisation. Insect and pest occurrence is merely a reflection of the fertility and health of the soil itself and not of the plant alone. It is working with the recognition of the dependence, co-dependence, connectedness,  interconnectedness of all life forms and expressions of the living in all ecological environments.

  • Organic agriculture will sustain and enhance the health of the soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one, and all are indivisible.
  • Organic agriculture is be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
  • Organic agriculture will build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
  • Organic agriculture is be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations and the environment (IFOAM)

What is E.M and what are the Effective Micro-organisms?

EM stands for Effective Micro-organisms. EM is a multi-functional medium that consists of natural beneficial micro organisms e.g. photosynthetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, yeast, ray fungi and actinomycetes. These micro organisms form clusters to establish food chains living in co-existence and co-prosperity establishing a symbiotic relationships. Some micro organisms in EM are aerobic others anaerobic and still others can live in both conditions. They excrete enzymes and break down organic matter into simple nutrients for their own food, which in turn can be taken up by plants and animals. EM technology is based on the useful beneficial fermentation of organic matter. It can produce nutrients such as amino acids, nucleic acids, vitamins and hormones from the organic matter. These then become available as so called “plant foods”.

Where do I use these Micro organisms?

The Effective Micro-organisms can be used in the cultivation of all plants. It too can be used in the raising of healthy animals of all types and breeds, (farm animals and domestic animals). EM is successfully used in aquaculture and is beneficial in providing healthy conditions to any environment. It is very successful in eliminating bad smells by breaking down harmful gases. It is also used to make an insect repellent and as a disease suppressor. A derivative of the Effective Micro organisms is also used as a liquid fertilising agent.

Does EM have several applications?

The simple answer is YES. The EM can be used in all four kingdoms of nature. The basis of all environments is microbiology and so EM has applications in the mineral kingdom, with the plant and animal kingdoms and also in the human kingdom.

Can EM be used for humans?

Lindros brew a Super Activated EM (SAEM) secondary brew as a probiotic for human consumption. We each have about a kilogram of microbes in our gut. The Lindros Solutions4 Probiotic will help keep the ratio, proportion and balance of the microbes in a favourable condition. Probiotics are defined as ‘Live micro organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’ (FAO/WHO, 2001). Properly used, relatively tiny amounts of Lindros PROBIOTIC SOLUTIONS4 microbial and nutrient technology can yield the following effects amongst others:

  • Supports a healthy immune system
  • Promotes a balanced digestion process
  • Promote the assimilation of minerals vitamins and trace elements
  • Reduce levels of toxic substances
  • Reduce levels of pathogenic microbes
  • Facilitates a favourable microbial profile in the gut
  • Reduces digestive upsets
  • Pet animals and birds’ feed efficiency and healthy growth is enhanced

Is Organic Agriculture a new approach?

The simple answer is a definite no. Prior to the mid 19th century all agriculture both national and international was organic. The big shift came with the scientific findings of Baron von Liebig. He found that the ashes of plants contained elements of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), he too found that humus, the true creator of fertility, is not soluble in water. With the advent of industrialisation the whole chemical “scientific” approach found its favour. Up to this point in history fertility was always addressed out of the living natural realms of nature.

Is there any literature available to help me in my understanding?

Most definitely there is a wealth of literature that can be accessed. Most of the larger commercial bookshops do stock some basic books. For specific title and relevant organisations please contact LINDROS ( alan@lindros.co.za ), Whole Earth Consultants. For details of our own books go here!

Why should I consider working in the Agroecological way?

The local & international farming community is facing its worst crisis in living memory, farm incomes are falling, livelihoods disappearing, soils are becoming less fertile and more eroded and less and less people are being employed in meaningful agricultural work. We have global warming, climate change as well as global dimming. The futures of our rural environments are under threat. A new direction, an agro-ecological approach, is being called for. One of the key ways for revitalization in agriculture is to support ecologically sound and sustainable systems of farming. This in turn creates meaningful work opportunities and provides the basis for a thriving local economy. At this present time the Organic and Biodynamic approach are the most appropriate methods of agriculture to be working with.

Do GMO’s have a place in Organic Agriculture?

The International Standards for Organic and or Biodynamic certification will not recognise the use of any genetically modified organisms. The local Organic standards being addressed by our government have clearly claimed not to accept the use of GMO’s in Organic agriculture.

Is working with Agroecology more expensive than conventional agriculture?

Organic forms of agriculture require less inputs than does conventional agriculture so in effect the answer is “no” it is not more expensive. There are no inputs such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and the normal chemical fertilisers. There is normally a larger labour input due to the intensive nature of Organic agriculture but these do not normally outweigh all the usual expensive inputs of conventional agriculture. There is too a premium price paid for Organic produce so the question of finances usually complements or supports the Organic grower. No actual figures are available for South African conditions at this time. For a more comprehensive study read “The economic implications of conversion from conventional to Organic farming systems” by Nicolas Lampkin of the University of Wales. Craig Chase, interim leader of the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative and extension farm management specialist, calculated the returns to management—that is, the money left over for family living after deducting labour, land and production costs—for both systems. He based his calculations on actual LTAR data from 1998 to 2004, as well as scenarios modeled with enterprise budgets. Both methods gave the same result: On average, organic systems return roughly $200 per acre more than conventional crops.

Is Organic agriculture more labour intensive?

The simple answer is again “yes”. In our ever-increasing dilemma of the growing rise in unemployment this approach to agriculture can help to significantly decrease the number of unemployed people. The major difference will be apparent in the cultivation of seasonal vegetables where the question of weeding is often addressed to by hand, mulches and mechanical cultivation rather than by the use of herbicides. 

Can Organic agriculture only be practiced on a small scale?

This is a common misconception. Organic agricultural principles can be applied to any scale of activity. One must remember that the primary focus is to be feeding the soil and not the plant. Management structures need to be put into place that address this principle and the scale then becomes of little consequence. The limiting factor is the availability of recyclable organic matter that needs to be incorporated into the soil for the naturally occurring soil processes to take place which, in turn, release the essential elements for healthy plant growth. On a larger field scale the growth of plants serving the purpose of a “green manure” is practiced. Multi cropping, companion planting, green manuring, rest and rotation are integral aspects of a sound and sustainable agricultural system.

 How do I as consumer be sure I am buying food that is grown organically?

All produce that is certified organic will bear a label that denotes that the produce is

  • Grown Organically
  • Bears the name of the certifying authority
  • Bears the unique number of the registered Organic certification for that particular producer

Can Organic Agriculture feed the world?

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. Organic agriculture is a process whereby (the) life (of) in the soil is encouraged, developed and striven for. It is out of this “life sphere” that the nutrients are made available to the plant through the decomposition, humification and mineralization of the soils organic matter content. Organic agriculture is orientated to increasing, stabilising and maintaining the organic matter content of the soil. Out of this the living processes are enabled to provide the elements needed for plant nutrition, fertility and plant health. We do not advocate that the choice to become Organic is a blanket yes or no from one day to the next. What we do advocate is that the farm embarks on a conversion program so that so called conventional agriculture is phased out over a time period and that while soil fertility is being addressed organically in phases, the overall production potential of the farm is not compromised. The yields obtainable through Organic methods are equivalent to those from conventional agriculture and often times they are higher with the added bonus of needing less inputs (which are usually detrimental to humans and the environment) and the feeding quality of produce is usually better through Organic production systems. Organic produce is said to be more nutritionally dense than conventionally produced foods.

What we advocate at this time as an interim is a sense of balance between the two opposing systems of agriculture. With the longer term aim and vision of becoming totally Organic. See the article Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World by Leu, Andre F. Chairman, Organic Federation of Australia. (digitally available from Lindros if needed)