Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS)
Thursday, 10 February 2011 14:29
Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) aim to provide a credible organic guarantee to consumers seeking organic produce through direct participation of farmers and consumers in the organic guarantee process.  Participatory Guarantee Systems are based on recognized and publicly available standards for organic production. To have the possibility of using the Organic Pasifika PGS Seal a PGS must use the Pacific Organic Standard as the production standard.

PGS are shaped by the very farmers and consumers that they serve and while the details of methodology and process vary, there is a consistency of core principles which can be adapted and specific to local conditions (communities, geographies, politics and markets). Participatory Guarantee Systems have transparent, systemised decision-making processes and aim to share the responsibility for the organic guarantee and to verify that farmers are consistently maintaining the standards. Trust is created through open information and peer reviews. PGS involve less administration and lower costs than export focused third party certification.

Participatory Guarantee Systems support and encourage producer groups to work together and to improve their farming practices through the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Active participation on the part of the stakeholders results in greater empowerment but also greater responsibility – there is a high priority placed on knowledge and capacity building of producers and consumers, ideal for the rural communities of the Pacific.

Participatory Guarantee Systems can be used as a tool for improving local socio-economic and ecological conditions by encouraging small-scale production and product processing. In local markets they help smallholders to have their products recognized as organic and can open unique opportunities such as small holder links with the tourism and hospitality industries.

What Policy Makers and NGOs can do to Support PGS Initiatives:

  • Facilitate the development of local markets for organically produced foodstuffs, building on Participatory Guarantee Systems as a credible and affordable method of organic guarantee.
  • Encourage diverse production by avoiding a strong focus on cash crop mono-cultures, fostering and safeguarding local agro-biodiversity.
  • Bolster peer-support approaches between farmers, by organizing themselves within a Participatory Guarantee System, to achieve food security and food sovereignty, as well as a fair price.
  • Encourage public awareness of local agriculture and facilitate access to urban markets for local/regional farmers.
  • Revitalize the inclusion of social justice norms and practices as an essential part of organic production systems.

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POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based at SPC with funding support from the EU Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade project (IACT). POETCom’s vision is that Organics and Ethical trade will be the key contributors to sustaining our cultures and communities; improving farmer livelihoods, communities, people’s health and the environment in the Pacific.