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Paddy quality seed production (QSP) certified through PGS in Delta

Régional workshop about Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) to promote Agroecology in the Mekong Region

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) emerged over 40 years ago, as “locally focused quality assurance systems […] based on the active participation of stakeholders and built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.” (IFOAM-Organics International, 2008). In several European countries (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan) organic farmers were initially inspected by committees that involved farmers as well as retailers, processors and/or consumers (Sylvander, 1997). Later on, PGS were revived in Brazil (where alternatives to certification have been sought since the 1990s), India and Mexico (Fonseca et al., 2004; Khosla, 2006; Nelson et al. 2016). Today, PGS are recognized as a suitable alternative to third-party certification for smallholders for several reasons: 1/ the cost of participation is much lower, and mostly takes the form of voluntary time involvement rather than financial expenses (May, 2016); 2/ by developing trust and mutual understanding between farmers and other stakeholders, PGS help develop multi-stakeholder dialogue and collective learning processes (PGS is often characterized as “knowledge intensive”); 3/ as a result, PGS are powerful instruments to stimulate local market development as they play a key role in developing consumer confidence in local produce.

PGS are therefore particularly relevant for organic and agroecological products in the Great Mekong Sub region (GMS), where a large majority of producers are smallholders who could benefit from a low-cost and adaptive certification system to access niche markets with premium prices and thereby foster organic and agroecological farming in the sub region. Moreover, recent studies (Vagneron et al., 2015, Vagneron et al., 2018) show the extent of consumer concern regarding food safety, and consumer ignorance regarding sustainable production methods in agriculture.