|PGS FAQs - PGS Start-up and Operation|
We’re excited to start a PGS in our region. How can we get started?
IFOAM provides a number of resources to assist in starting a PGS program both online and in print, including links to PGS operation manuals and case studies from around the world. There is also a (soon to be completed) IFOAM PGS Guide which elucidates key principles and characteristics of a PGS along with examples of how they have been practically incorporated in programs around the world.
Because there is not one set way to design a PGS program, consider contacting a PGS program operation in a country where farmers face similar socio-economic conditions to farmers in your country.
Is there a manual or guide on how to set up PGS?
Yes! Very much in the spirit of PGS, IFOAM has commissioned a guide to starting a PGS that uses examples to illustrate the various ways that different PGS programs around the world have integrated the principles and characteristics of a Participatory Guarantee System. You can pick and choose which systems would work best for your region and situation.
Is there a perfect PGS I can look at? What’s the best PGS program in the world to copy?
PGS program around the world embrace certain principles and characteristics of a Participatory Guarantee System. The specifics of how they accomplish this vary based on the social context they were created to serve. The “perfect” PGS in the United States wouldn’t fit well within the Indian social context at all for example. You can look to the IFOAM PGS Guide to see various examples. Also look for an established PGS operating in a social context similar to your own.
What does the term participatory mean (who participates and how)? Who should we include when we start our PGS?
A principle of PGS is that they are actively inclusive – seeking input from all stakeholders. Primary stakeholders obviously include farmers and consumers, but farmer NGOs, consumer groups, environmental groups and local and regional government agencies may all be involved in the PGS.
We already have an organic group. How do I know if it is a PGS? What do I need to do to make it a PGS?
IFOAM is working on a Self-Evaluation and voluntary registration system for PGS programs. The leading questions take you through the principles and characteristics of PGS. You can choose to be listed in the voluntary registration and you can also choose to make your answers to the self-evaluation questionnaire available on the website so that other PGS programs can see what you’ve done and hopefully offer comments.
Can our PGS program be accredited by IFOAM or some other international agency?
There is no international accreditation by IFOAM or any other agency for PGS programs. In fact, a "key characteristic" of the PGS movement is that they are locally focused and non-hierarchical, so the idea of accreditation doesn’t seem appropriate at this time, however please see the preceding question about the PGS Self-Evaluation and voluntary registration system.
When you say PGS programs are oriented towards small farmers that sell locally and directly, how do you define “local”? What about “small”?
These questions are decided by the stakeholder farmers and consumers based on what is most appropriate to their situation. Different PGS programs have approached these questions differently – by country, region, state or even based on a specified number of miles. Some PGS programs have been legitimized across neighboring national boundaries.
A hallmark of PGS programs are the lower direct costs as compared to individual Third Party Certification. What are the indirect costs associated with these programs and what involvement is expected of farmers?
Different PGS programs require different levels of farmer involvement but at a minimum farmers are integrally involved in peer-inspections/reviews of each others operations. This is seen by many as one of the significant benefits of a PGS program because it encourages the sharing of information between farmers and general capacity building. Farmers are also usually involved at the local level in directly deciding on questions of certification as well as consequences for irregularities based on pre-agreed upon guidelines.
PGS programs place a high emphasis on the fact that they aren’t hierarchical and run in a more decentralized fashion. So who makes the final decision about what inputs or practices are allowable or not allowable in PGS Organic farming systems?
PGS is a system of quality assurance, not a system of production. Both PGS and Third Party Certification systems are based on the same Principles of Organic Agriculture so allowable inputs in PGS Certified Organic agriculture are generally the same as those in Third Party Certified Organic Agriculture.
Some of the ways PGS programs have approached answering specific questions include but aren’t limited to:
(a) An advisory board within the PGS that makes decisions about specific products and practices
(b) Use of a third party information source like the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI) that provide a list of allowable and prohibited products
(c) Official or unofficial link ups with a regional third party certifier that can help advise on specific inputs and practices.
(d) Subscribing to an “official” production standard (for example the NOP in the US or the NPOP in India) which provides a considerable amount of support material to help answer such questions.
|IFOAM - International Federation of Organic Agriculture | email@example.com|