Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), which serve as an alternative to third-party certification in the field of organic agriculture, have grown significantly over the past 15 years. They have been designed as "bottom-up" processes where organic certification is attained through co-governance by the various stakeholders involved and relevant social dynamics are exhibited.
Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems. PGS was developed in 2004 by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). According to IFOAM, PGS certifies small-scale farmers based largely on active participation and is established on a foundation of trust and knowledge sharing among the group members.
PGS emphasizes the active participation of all group members and is suitable for penetrating domestic organic markets, where all stakeholders can participate in the quality control and assurance process. PGS has a much more intensive interaction between farmers, buyers and consumers and uses different tools to maintain trust. PGS integrates capacity building which enables small-scale farmers to follow standards and improve their agricultural practices.
Through the direct interaction with the process, and the fact that it is owned by the small-scale farmers there is more responsibility, transparency, and active involvement in the design of production processes all of which ensure quality products. The adoption of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) with more stringent health and food safety requirements could also respond to the new market needs and consumer demand while also increasing food security at the local level.
“It is necessary to improve food production due to the rising usage of conventional methods and food contamination. PGS offers a sustainable, community-led method for producing high-quality food. Additionally, there has been a change in consumer demand that mandates a guarantee of quality in both the production process and the finished product.”- Olivia Muwanga, Small scale farmer, Masaka district.
On 30th May to 2nd June 2022, ESAFF Uganda together with PELUM Uganda convened to develop a guide on Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS). This PGS guide is intended for different ecological organic farmers within their farmer groups who wish to have a PGS as quality assurance of their products for the increasing agroecological domestic/local market which may transform into certification for export/international markets.
The guide supports the appreciation of PGS by small-scale farmers and details steps (with basic tools) and elements in establishing a PGS. It also guides the implementation and operationalization of PGS aiming at facilitating farmer groups.
“The development of this guide will benefit many of our farmers since many of them are interested in certifying their organic products. PGS will further help in reducing costs in the certification process and encourage farmer-to-farmer learning.” – Wali Christopher, small-scale farmer, Mukono district.
The Participatory Guarantee Systems guide was further pretested with small-scale farmers in Mukono district and it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that it is a farmer-friendly user guide that will aid farmers in setting up PGS groups. Therefore, it is incumbent on the government of Uganda to embrace and popularize Participatory Guarantee Systems as the only form of organic certification in order to meet the increasing demand of organic products at the local, regional and international markets.