Participatory Guarantee Systems help global small farmers stay afloat

Under-resourced global farmers need markets to sell in. Consumers want local and healthy foods. Participatory Guarantee Systems are one way to meet both these needs. This model has proven successful for a group of women farmers in rural Nepal, among many others.

Surkhet District, Karnali Province, Nepal, June 23, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In many remote communities of the world, small farmers are underemployed and need market access. At the same time, consumers are seeking more local and healthy foods. These combined needs have given rise to a new type of organic market certification – Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) groups provide opportunities to connect farmers and consumers and capitalize on local community relationships.

A PGS 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 recurring purchasing relationships with the farmer group.

PGS: small farmers and local support

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.

Women farmers in rural Nepal

Learning from their work with children and women in the rural community of Surkhet Nepal, the team at nonprofit BlinkNow asserts that holistic community development means caregivers also need stable jobs and families need access to healthy foods. BlinkNow added a program to work together with local farmers on training and mentorship in organic practices, involving partners CEAPRED (agricultural outreach organization) and the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives of the local Karnali Province.

The farmers and BlinkNow decided to organize their own PGS group. Founded in January 2018, the Sana Kishan PGS Management Group has a membership of 22 women farmers and has recently announced that its members achieved certification and recognition from the government of Nepal as a PGS group.

With the food that the Sana Kishan farmers are producing, the group can sell to the Kopila Valley School’s daily healthy lunch program (another BlinkNow project) and other local consumers.

BlinkNow's Sustainability Coordinator Sunita Bhandari says, "We are all so happy about this new recognition of our 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."

The Sana Kishan farmers create guidelines for growing food with organic practices, hold each other accountable to these guidelines, provide sustainable income for their families, learn from each other and guest speakers at membership meetings, and improve access to healthy foods for the whole community.

The success of this partnership between BlinkNow and farmers in Nepal serves as an inspiring example of how PGS groups can increase opportunity for 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.

Additional information

Since 2007, the BlinkNow Foundation, has been working with the community of Surkhet, Nepal to empower Nepal’s youth and women, including job creation programs and training for farmers. This PGS certification is the next step in creating impact that will improve the physical and economic health of the entire community.

The BlinkNow Foundation provides an education and a loving, caring home for children without families and at-risk children. The foundation also provides community outreach to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice - it fulfills its mission by providing financial support and management oversight to the Kopila Valley Children's Home and Kopila Valley School in Surkhet, Nepal. In addition to the home and school, Kopila Valley runs a Health & Wellness program, Women's Center, Home for At-Risk Students, Futures Career Readiness Program, and integrated Sustainability Program across all initiatives.



PGS Group Farmers Lead the way in Rural Nepal Taking Vegetables to Market

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