Participatory Guarantee Systems for safe vegetables in Vietnam

Participatory Guarantee Systems for safe vegetables in Vietnam

PGS is a reliable and affordable quality assurance mechanism that enables farmers to increase their income while helping build consumers’ trust in their food.

Food safety scandals are run-of-the-mill in Vietnam: not a week goes by without a new scandal being reported in the newspapers. The chronic overuse of dangerous and low quality pesticides poses a risk for farmers and consumers. The Vietnamese consumer is becoming more and more conscious of this danger, which manifests itself in the rapid increase of the demand for safe, organic vegetables that meet standards of safety and hygiene. This growing demand for organically and safely produced vegetables is a great opportunity for Vietnamese vegetable farmers. If they respond to this market demand, they are able to not only increase their income, but also to feed local communities in a safe, sustainable way. Farmers that produce safe and organic vegetables can have their vegetables certified by an external party, but this process is often costly and very complex. This is not a viable route for smallholder farmers.

PGS, the Participatory Guarantee System, is the alternative: it is a quality assurance system that guarantees the quality of safe agricultural products and has the potential to regain consumer trust. PGS differs from third party certifications in a number of ways. First of all, in its cost: it is much less expensive. Secondly, in its complexity: it entails far less administrative burden. Both of these make it more in line with the reality of smallholder farmers. A third big difference is its approach. As the name suggests, direct participation of farmers and even consumers in the guarantee process is required. Principles and rules for safe or organic production are conceived and applied through contributions of all stakeholders: producers, government, private sector and consumers. They are adapted to fit the local context, taking into account individual communities, geographic area, cultural environment and markets. The credibility of production quality and safety is enhanced by the participation of different stakeholders at different stages.

Firm believer in the benefits of PGS, Rikolto and its partners are currently working with 10 farmer organisations in 4 provinces in northern Vietnam (Ha Nam, Phu Tho, Da Nang and Vinh Phuc) to help build up the production and marketing skills of farmers. We use the outcomes of these projects to convince provincial and national governments of PGS’ potential as a low-cost and reliable certification system, in the hope that it will be officially recognized and endorsed.


  • The Vietnamese government supports VietGAP, an expensive, labour-intensive and complex third-party certification which remains largely inaccessible to smallholders. While the total vegetable production in Vietnam is estimated to be about 735,000 ha, only 63,000 ha (8%) have a VietGAP certificate (Dao Bach Khoa et. al. 2015).
  • Small-scale farmers often lack knowledge and experience on how to apply good agricultural practices that are compatible with food safety and organic standards.
  • Many of our partner cooperatives and collaborative groups were recently established and lack the business and organisational capacity to reach their full potential as businesses.
  • Farmers lack experience with post-harvest practices leading to significant food loss.
  • Farmer organisations often struggle to enter into sustainable relations an contracts with companies, often because of a lack of commitment from the buyers and poor marketing capacity.
  • Although over 90% of consumers are worried about food safety in Hanoi, less than 5% of vegetables sold have evidence that they are safe. One of the reasons why consumers are reluctant to pay a higher price for safe vegetables is their lack of trust in vendors and certifications.

Our strategies

  • Support farmers in implementing safe and organic production methods, in accordance with the BasicGAP or Organic PGS standards;
  • Set up and support the management of Participatory Guarantee System to lead towards their independent operations;
  • Train farmers and coach them on marketing, business & production planning, organisational management, business negotiation, accounting, post harvest loss, etc.;
  • Engage Vietnamese consumers to participate in PGS and to raise their awareness on the issue of safe and sustainable vegetables consumption;
  • Facilitate the development of long-term inclusive business relationships between farmers, wholesalers, supermarkets and vegetable stores to achieve win-win trading relationships. One of the approaches that we use is the LINK methodology developed by CIAT to improve the collaboration between farmers and private sector actors.
  • Develop a PGS toolbox to support interested practitioners in setting up and maintaining their own PGS systems.
  • Document our results and lessons learned to advocate district, provincial and national governments to support and invest in PGS as a reliable and affordable quality assurance system for the benefit of small-scale farmers and consumers.

How do Participatory Guarantee Systems work?

Supported farmers

Phu Tho province

  • Tu Xa Safe Vegetable Cooperative : 54 farmers
  • Tu Vu Safe Vegetable Cooperative : 65 farmers

Ha Nam province

  • Cat Lai Cooperative: 32 farmers
  • Trac VanCooperative: 36 farmers (organic vegetables)

Da Nang municipality

  • La Huong Cooperative: 22 farmers
  • Ninh An Production group: 38 farmers
  • Tuy Loan Cooperative: 40 farmers

Vinh Phuc province

  • An Hoa Cooperative: 160 farmers
  • Thanh Ha Cooperative: 32 farmers
  • Van Hoi Cooperative: 27 farmers

Total number of direct farmer beneficiaries: 506


The current budget committed to the vegetable programme for the period 2017-2021 amounts to 424,709.25 EUR and is largely funded by the Belgian Directorate General for Development.

What have we achieved between 2014 and 2016?

  • In June 2014 the Trac Van Cooperative obtained an organic certificate from the PGS Network Vietnam. Since then, the number of farmer members doubled and the production area increased from 1 to 5 ha. Between 2013 and 2016, farmers' income per hectare increased from 60 million VND to 360 million VND. Supply contracts have been drawn up between the cooperative and a number of private actors such as the supermarket chain Bac Tom in Hanoi.

  • A Participatory Guarantee System was set up in Tan Lac district, Hoa Binh. Farmers are now producing organic vegetables according to PGS organic regulations.

  • Tan Duc's Participatory Guarantee System in Viet Tri, Phu Tho, has been simplified to ensure a clear certification process and farmers' involvement.

  • PGS has successfully been taken up and adopted by Tu Xa cooperative in Phu Tho who is now supplying safe vegetables to VinEco, the home brand of one of Vietnam's leading minimart chains Vinmart. Prices are 2-3 times higher than on the local market which allows the cooperative to reinvest part of the profits in strengthening its operations and management.

What do we expect to achieve by 2021?

We expect that by the end of 2021:

  • 21 Participatory Guarantee Systems bringing together about 1,100 farmers in Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Ha Nam, Da Nang and Phu Tho provinces are operational, able to function independently from Rikolto and represent a diversity of stakeholders;
  • Supported farmer organisations improve their access to safe vegetables markets under good conditions, including through formal contracts that guarantee fair price, long-term commitment and reasonable volumes;
  • An inspiring PGS model and toolbox is available for practitioners to set up their own PGS, independently from Rikolto’s support;
  • Partner farmers adopt climate-smart and environmentally friendly practices;
  • Four provinces have adopted PGS as part of their policies towards safe food and sustainable agriculture;
  • PGS networks are operational in 4 provinces to promote a more enabling environment for safe vegetable policies in their respective province and ensure coherence amongst PGS systems;
  • The Vietnamese government has taken steps towards the recognition of PGS as a valid quality assurance mechanism and its adoption in national policies;
  • Vietnam’s consumer protection system is better able to represent and defend consumers on food safety-related issues.

Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

Rikolto in Vietnam’s vegetable programme will specifically contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • Target 1.1. By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day
  • Target 1.2. By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
  • Target 1.7. Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  • Target 2.1. By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
  • Target 2.3. By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment
  • Target 2.4. By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  • Target 8.4: Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead.
  • Target 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

SDG 10: Reduce income inequality within and among countries

  • Target 10.1: By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
  • Target 11A: Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Target 12.1. Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production (10YFP), all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries
  • Target 12.3. By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses
  • Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

  • Target 17.7: Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships

Da Nang Crop Production and Plant Protection Department

Da Nang Union of Science and Technology Associations - DANUSTA

Da Nang Union of Science and Technology Associations - DANUSTA

Rikolto and DANUSTA work together to increase the business capacity and quality production of smallholder farmers to ensure their fair inclusion in Da Nang's food supply chain.

Da Nang Women's Union (WU)

Da Nang Women's Union (WU)

Rikolto works with the Da Nang Women's Union on the implementation of campaigns aimed at raising consumers’ awareness of food safety.

Duy Tien Women Union (Ha Nam province)

Ha Nam Agricultural Extension Centre

Ha Nam Agricultural Extension Centre

Ha Nam Agro-forestry-fishery quality assurance department

Ha Nam Crop Production and Plant Protection Department

Phu Tho Agro-Forestry and Fisheries Quality Assurance Department

Phu Tho Agro-Forestry and Fisheries Quality Assurance Department

Phu Tho Sub-Department of Plant Protection

Phu Tho Sub-Department of Plant Protection

Vinh Phuc Crop Production and Plant Protection Department

Vinh Phuc Farmers’ Union

Vinh Phuc Farmers’ Union

Vietnam National University of Agriculture

Vietnam National University of Agriculture

Together with Vietnam National University of Agriculture, Rikolto conducted a country-wide study to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).

Hoang Thanh Hai
Hoang Thanh Hai
Vegetable and Tea Programme Coordinator
+84-24 6258 3640/41 - ext. 32
Pham Dieu Linh
Pham Dieu Linh
Programme Officer - Vegetables
+84-24-6258 3640/41 - Ext. 36
Nguyen Thi Den
Nguyen Thi Den
GF4C Programme Officer
+84 98 98 464 24