Kathmandu: In many remote communities, small farmers are underemployed and need market access while consumers are seeking more local and healthy foods.
The question is how can we link small farmers with consumers? Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) can be one of the sustainable solutions, linking agricultural production with consumers.
A new type of organic market certification, Participatory Guarantee System provides opportunities to connect farmers and consumers and capitalize on local community relationships.
The PGS also provides a local network of support with other farmers, training in organic farming practices to reduce pesticides in the land and in foods for the benefit of the grower, the consumer, and the earth, and local buyers who commit to ongoing purchasing relationships with the farmer group.
BlinkNow, a nonprofit, has already initiated the operation of the Participatory Guarantee System in Surkhet, a mid-western district of Nepal.
Learning from their work with children and women in the rural community of Surkhet, the organization has realized the importance of holistic community development means. Thus, BlinkNow has added a program to work together with local farmers on training and mentorship in organic practices, involving partners the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives of Karnali Province and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), an agricultural outreach organization, said the organization.
According to BlinkNow, the Sana Kisan PGS Management Group, founded in 2018, consists of 22 female members. Members of the group have now been recognized by the government authorities.
“The group has achieved certification and recognition from the government of Nepal as a PGS group,” said BlinkNow in a statement.
The group can sell agricultural products (mostly local food products) to the School Meal Program at Kopila Valley, which is also supported by BlinkNow and other local consumers.
“We are happy about the new recognition of the PGS group. It validates the work we are doing with organic practices, and it will help the group gain access to more sales opportunities in our community and region,” said Sunita Bhandari, Sustainability Coordinator at BlinkNow.
The Sana Kishan farmers group develops guidelines for growing food with organic practices. The group provides an opportunity to learn from each other and participate in meetings as guest speakers, and improve access to healthy foods for the whole community, according to BlinkNow.
BlinkNow’s success in Nepal serves as an inspiring example of how PGS groups can empower small farmers, foster local support networks, and promote sustainable agriculture. As the demand for local and organic foods continues to grow, PGS certification offers a viable solution that bridges the gap between farmers and consumers, ensuring transparency, trust, and the well-being of both parties, the organization said.
Since 2007, the BlinkNow Foundation has been working with the community of Surkhet in the area of job creation programs and training for farmers to empower youth and women. This PGS certification is the next step in creating an impact that will improve the physical and economic health of the entire community.
What is PGS?
A PGS group is a quality control system with the direct involvement of stakeholders, especially producers, and consumers. When these two groups work together in a PGS relationship, it is simple for a consumer to know where their food comes from and the practices used to grow it.
Farmers and members of the group work together to determine their quality and organic standards, and the group offers monitoring, inspections, accountability, and support to ensure that each member follows through on their commitment.
According to IFOAM – Organics International, “Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally-focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks, and knowledge exchange.”
With a focus on learning and capacity building, PGS groups also provide the benefits of social support and professional development. Farmers share knowledge and resources, and local partners bring in expert consultants to help coach and support the community commitment to organic growing. In this way, farmers can improve the quality and quantity of their crops, and thereby their incomes, over time.
Why not third-party organic certification? Though there are many benefits, these certifications often require extensive paperwork processes and are cost prohibitive for small farmers. Third-party organic certification is typically better used for larger farmers and consumers in a global market.In contrast, a PGS system is an alternative on the local level with the goals of balancing inequity, adapting to local contexts, and building on local relationships and accountability. PGS processes can also be more flexible, and therefore more inclusive, to meet the needs of the local community.