|Historical background and current status|
Smallholder groups have been certified on the basis of ICSs for many
years. Since the mid 80s, even before public regulations on organic
agriculture where developed, private certification bodies developed
group certification systems in order to facilitate the certification of
smallholder farmers in developing countries. Over the last decade
however, private requirements regarding group certification / ICSs have
differed considerably between different certifiers.
This has caused problems for the private certification bodies themselves to trade products certified under different levels of ICS requirements. The inconsistency in ICS requirements has also inhibited the official recognition of ICS within regulations of the major importers i.e. EU, Japan and the USA. In order to achieve official acceptance of ICSs by the EU, and to advocate for a re-inspection rate setting methodology based on risk assessment, clear and harmonized rules for group certification were needed. In 1994, IFOAM achieved the first step towards ICS harmonization by including a paragraph on group certification in its Accreditation Criteria. At the same time, it provided internationally recognized guidelines on ICS requirements for group certification.
In 2000, IFOAM continued these harmonization efforts by initiating a process aimed at setting clearer definitions and practical recommendations for the implementation of the Accreditation Criteria guidelines. The process brought together certifiers, producers and certifying authorities during 3 workshops (2001-2003) and led to the production of the document on “Smallholder Group Certification: Compilation of Results”. The document details collectively agreed elements of ICSs such as documentation requirements, evaluation protocols, appropriate re-inspection rates and risk assessment tools. As a result of this process, the EU commission adopted in November 2003 the agreed upon results in its “Guidance Document for the Evaluation of the Equivalence of Organic Producer Group Certification Schemes Applied in Developing Countries”.
In 2001, an estimated number of 150.000 smallholders around the developing world were organized under 350 groups for export certification. This number has even grown since then, even though estimations are lacking for recent years.
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