Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a low-cost quality assurance mechanism that guarantees the quality of agricultural products and has the potential to regain consumers’ trust. Introduced in Vietnam in the organic agriculture sector, it has been implemented in the country for over 10 years to certify safe and organic vegetables.
As part of the project “Capitalisation of Participatory Guarantee System experiences in Vietnam for upscaling & institutionalisation”, funded by the Agroecology Learning Alliance in Southeast Asia, Vietnam National University of Agriculture and Rikolto investigated all existing PGS in Vietnam to assess their strengths and weaknesses and come up with recommendations on how to improve PGSs in the Vietnamese context. This Executive Summary compiles the study’s main findings and recommendations.
The full summary of the study can be downloaded at the end of this article.
1. Consumers’ access to safe food
PGSs that have been established for multiple years and are engaged in outreach activities perform better thanks to their earned reputation with consumers and buyers. Recent PGSs and the ones located away from major cities often struggle to meet consumers’ demand due to unstable distribution channels, lack of visibility, poor diversity of vegetable varieties, and small selling volumes. The biggest challenges are the absence of recognition of PGS certification by the government and the lack of familiarity of consumers with PGSs.
2. Income and market access
Well-functioning PGSs have undeniably increased market access for their member farmers. The study revealed that farmers’ income from PGS vegetables is higher than income from non-PGS vegetables and other crops, such as rice. Farmers’ average income from PGS safe and organic vegetables varies from VND 2.5 to 10 million per month depending on the size of the production area and the season. Despite the majority of PGSs having stable selling contracts with retailers and/or collective kitchens, they still struggle to meet buyers’ volume and varieties requirements.
3. Environmental sustainability
Environmental sustainability in PGS farms is ensured by farmers’ compliance with either an organic or GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standard. Under PGS organic rules, farmers are prohibited to use chemical fertilizer and plant protection products, and to destruct forests and other ecosystems. They are also required to prevent erosion and salinity intrusion and to add a green manure crop to the crop rotation structure. Under BasicGAP, farmers must: 1) follow official guidelines for agrochemicals’ use, 2) learn about Integrated Pest Management, 3) record any use of chemicals, and 4) dispose of waste safely. Farmers self-reported benefits on their own health and on soil fertility.
4. Community-building and social sustainability
Interviewed farmers mentioned that since PGS started in their community, they had felt increased social cohesion among farmers, and had learned about their responsibility towards the community. Some underlined the importance of their group’s assistance and enthusiasm in encouraging them to pursue organic farming. Some PGSs regularly organise fairs and community activities to enable farmers to exchange experiences and learn from each other.
Rikolto and VNUA express their sincere gratitude to all the farmers, consumers, representatives of companies, local authorities and NGOs for their participation in the PGS capitalisation study. Their insights offer a wealth of knowledge and have strongly contributed to improving our understanding of the current situation of PGS in Vietnam.