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PGS-India is a quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasize the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers and operate outside the frame of third party certification. As per IFOAM (2008) definition “Participatory Guarantee Systems 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”. PGS is a process in which people in similar situations (in this case small holder producers) assess, inspect and verify the production practices of each other and take decision on organic certification (PGS-Green and PGS-Organic). PGS system has number of basic elements which embrace a participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust. Participation is an essential and dynamic part of PGS.
Key stakeholders (producers, consumers, retailers, traders and others such as NGOs, Societies/ Gram panchayaths/ State/Central Govt. organization/agencies /farmer etc.,) are engaged in the initial design, and then in the operation of the PGS. In the operation of a PGS, stakeholders (including producers) are involved in decision making and essential decisions about the operation of the PGS itself. In addition to being involved in the mechanics of the PGS, stakeholders, particularly the producers are engaged in a structured ongoing learning process, which helps them improve what they do. This process is facilitated by the PGS group itself or in some situations a supportive NGO/ Societies, Gram panchayaths, State/Central Govt. organization/agencies etc. The learning process is usually „hands-on‟ and involves field days or workshops. The idea of participation embodies the principle of collective responsibility for ensuring the organic integrity of the PGS.
PGS India system is based on participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust. In addition, it gives PGS movement a National recognition and institutional structure.
Participation is an essential and dynamic part of PGS. Key stakeholders (producers, consumers, retailers, traders and others such as NGOs, Societies, Gram panchayaths, State/Central Govt. organization/agencies etc) are engaged in the initial design, and then in the operation of the PGS and decision making. Participation is an essential and dynamic part of PGS. Participation embodies the principle of collective responsibility for ensuring the organic integrity of the PGS. This collective responsibility is reflected through:
Stakeholder engagement in the development and operation process Understanding of how the system works and
Direct communication between producers and consumers and other stakeholders
The responsibility for implementation and decision making is done collectively and driven by a common shared vision. All the key stakeholders (producers, facilitating agencies, NGOs, social organizations, State Governments and state agencies) support the guiding principles and goals, PGS is striving to achieve and this is achieved initially through their participation and support in the design and then by joining it. This may include commitment in writing through signing an application and pledge that includes the vision.
Transparency is created by having all stakeholders, including producers and consumers, aware of exactly how the guarantee system works to include the standards, the organic guarantee process (norms) with clearly defined and documented systems and how decisions are made. Also all the information about farmers, their produce, area of land under cultivation etc can be accessed by the general public through the PGS portal. At the grass roots level transparency is maintained through the active participation of the producers in the organic guarantee process which can include
The integrity base upon which PGS-India programme is built, is rooted in the idea that producers can be trusted and that the organic guarantee system can be an expression and verification of this trust. The foundation of this trust is built from the idea that the key stakeholders collectively develop their shared vision and then collectively continue to shape and reinforce their vision through the PGS. The idea of ‘trust’ assumes that the individual producer has a commitment to protecting nature and consumers’ health through organic production. The idea of „trust‟ assumes that the individual producer has a commitment to protecting nature, maintaining biodiversity, maintenance of soil health, and consumers‟ health through organic production which are free from chemical residues.
PGS India is intended to be non-hierarchical at group level. This will reflect in the overall democratic structure and through the collective responsibility of the PGS group with sharing and rotating responsibility, by engaging producers directly in the peer review of each other’s farms; and by transparency in decision making process.
PGS India while keeping the spirit of PGS intact aims to give the entire movement an institutional structure. This is achieved by networking the groups under common umbrella through various facilitating agencies, Regional Councils and Zonal Councils. National Centre of Organic Farming shall be the custodian of data, define policies and guidelines and undertake surveillance through field monitoring and product testing for residues. Regional councils and facilitating agencies facilitate the groups in capacity building, training, knowledge/ technology dissemination and data uploading on the PGS website
Advantages of PGS over third party certification system In PGS organic farmers have full control over the certification process and are able to produce far more credible and effective system of quality assurance compared to third party PGS-INDIA certification. Important benefits of this system over third-party certification system are as follows:
a. The procedures are simple and user friendly, documents are basic and use both English and Hindi as languages.
b. All the members are local and known to each other. Being themselves practicing organic farmers have high degree of understanding on day-to-day knowledge or acquaintance of the farm.
c. Peer appraisers are among the group and live in the same village, therefore have better access to surveillance
d. Peer appraisal instead of third party inspections reduces cost
e. Mutual recognition and support between Regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
f. Empowers farmers with increased capacity building
g. Bring consumers to the farm without the need of middleman h. Unlike grower group certification system, PGS offer every farmer with individual certificate and each farmer is free to market its own produce independent of group.
i. Consumers and buyers are often involved in production and verification process
j. Random residue testing at regular intervals ensures the integrity and increases the trust.
PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organize and perform as a group within the village or in close-by villages with continuous territory and is applicable on, on-farm activities comprising of crop production, processing and livestock rearing (including bee keeping) and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”. Individual farmers or group of farmers having less than 5 members are not covered under PGS. They either have to opt for third party certification or join the existing PGS local group. PGS is applicable on on-farm activities comprising of crop production, processing and livestock rearing and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”. Off-farm processing activities such as, storage, transport and value addition activities by persons/agencies other than PGS farmers away from the group are not covered under PGS. Off-farm input approval granted by the group is applicable on the members of the same group and cannot be taken as a basis for universal approval for other groups. Off-farm inputs need to be approved by each group for their member’s use on case to case basis. PGS ensures traceability only up to end till it is in the custody of PGS group. Once the product leaves the custody of PGS group there is no control of PGS on its integrity, Therefore PGS is ideal for local direct sales/ direct trade between producer and consumer and direct trade of packed finished product with PGS logo between PGS group and traders/ retailers. But Local Groups and buyers in consultation with RC can devise some mechanism with full traceability records to allow use of PGS logo on products packed by traders/ retailers.
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