Participatory Guarantee System–a pro small scale farmer approach to quality assurance: The case of the Thup Thai Organic Cooperative by Saowarop Panyacheewin, National Secretariat Specialist, WGA-Thailand

December 22, 2016

What is PGS?
Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) as defined by IFOAM, are locally focused quality assurance systems. The PGS system allows for peer certification by producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks, and knowledge exchange. PGS is rather a new concept, coined after the joint IFOAM-MAELA Alternative Certification Workshop in Torres, Brazil in 2004, but is gaining momentum worldwide as it offers a complementary, low-cost, locally-based system of quality assurance that can be used as a complementary method to third-party certification.

Ms. Kanya Onsri and the Thup Thai Organic Cooperative
Foreseeing that PGS is becoming essential to the continued growth of the organic movement, especially for the inclusion of smallholder farmers and its direct benefit to climate-friendly agriculture practices, the Land Development Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand has proposed to lead the implementation of PGS in cooperation with a non-governmental organization, the Thai Organic Agriculture Foundation (TOAF). Under the program, five organic agricultural groups from various parts of the country have been selected as pilot sites including Thup Thai Organic Cooperatives in Surin province led by Mrs. Kanya Onsri. The farmers’ group has learned, been coached and trained about PGS process. They can now manage their own quality assurance under PGS certification, which will give consumers more confidence on food safety.

Mrs. Kanya, a native of Surin province, organized a community group called Ban Thup Thai Alternative Occupation and Environmental Conservation in 1999 to foster organic farming among its members. In 2003 the group established Green Market in the community where organic farmers have direct access to the market and links with buyers. However, small-scale farmers could not afford third-party certification, their products are mostly sold within the community.
With the introduction of PGS, farmers have learned about quality assurance and can be their own inspector under the peer review process. Meanwhile buyers and consumers can be more confident about what they buy being certified as safe and produced using climate-friendly agriculture practices. PGS has been well received since the system certifies the whole farm, not just a single product and helps reduce production cost since farmers learn technical knowledge and share experience in organic farming which also results in increased productivity and better farm waste management. The PGS members have grown from 76 to over 150 within a year.
Direct link PGS organic farmers to market at Nature and Organic Expo in Bangkok

Aiming high
Mrs. Kanya said the group is progressing from selling within the community to outside the province and now aiming at the global market. Thanks to the PGS network, particularly with the assistance of another PGS group from Sampran Riverside in Nakhon Pathom province, Thup Thai organic farmers have now supplied PGS-certified organic rice to some 15 leading hotels and convention centers in Bangkok, which previously only accept third-party certification of organic rice. The standing order is five tons per month, at THB 25 per kilogram.
Said Mrs. Kanya: “We need to make consumers understand about PGS and make PGS become internationally recognized.” Encouraging farmers to adopt PGS, she said “Don’t wait for certification from other third parties, farmers can do it ourselves. PGS is more than certification, it builds and strengthens the farmers’ group and the community as a whole.”

Note: THB = Thai Baht.