Production hygiene and training influences on rural small-scale organic farmer practices: South Africa
In view of frequently reported foodborne disease outbreaks caused by contaminated fresh produce, consumers have a preference for foods meeting requisite hygiene standards. Production of good quality fresh produce is thus critical for market access and food security, especially for rural, small-scale farmers. Microbiological product quality in this South African sector is crucial, given the policy drive to develop small-scale farming to reinforce household food security and poverty reduction. Farming practices and methods, throughout the fresh produce value chain impact final product quality, determining its market success. The aim of the study was therefore to determine the extent to which training in organic farming methods, including modules such as the Importance of Production Hygiene’ influenced the hygienic farming practices of small-scale, organic farmers in eTholeni, uMbumbulu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Questionnaires were administered to 73 uncertified, organic farmers; analysis showed that only 33 farmers were trained and supplied the local Agri-Hub, whereas 40 had not received training. The questionnaire probed respondent hygiene practices. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, such as the Chi-square test and a logistic regression model. Descriptive analysis indicated that most farmers (60%) were female, most of whom (73%) were over 40 years old. The logistic regression indicated that factors such as farmer training and prior experience in the farming sector had a significant influence on hygiene practices, both at 5% significance levels. These results emphasize the importance of training, education and farming experience in implementing good hygiene practices in small-scale farming. It is recommended therefore, that South African Agricultural Extension policies should advocate for small-scale farmer training. This training should include market-focused farmer training to supply produce markets with high quality fresh produce; and subsistence focused training for household food security.