On 30 July, Vietnam National University of Agriculture and Rikolto organised the workshop “10 years of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) in Vietnam: Sharing lessons and introducing a new PGS training toolbox”. The event concluded a one-year project funded by the Agroecology Learning Alliance in Southeast Asia to capitalise PGS experiences in Vietnam for upscaling and institutionalisation.
Vietnam’s agri-food systems are undergoing a rapid and deep transformation. While consumers have increasingly demanding needs regarding the quality, traceability and safety of their food, the supply of safe agricultural products is still largely unstable and expensive. A reliable and trustworthy quality assurance mechanism is a key condition to provide consumers with the confidence that quality standards are met. However, they are not always suitable for small-scale operators and local market channels because of the high costs involved, the paperwork required and the complexity of their requirements. To address these challenges, farmers, NGOs, and their partners have sought alternative certification systems that are better adapted to farmers’ local contexts. In 2008, the Danish NGO ADDA was the first organisation to introduce Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) to certify organic vegetables in Vietnam. Ten years later, PGS is implemented in 6 provinces and 9 districts, and involves 725 farmers.
Guaranteeing the quality of agricultural products and ensuring the commitment of all actors to sustainable value chains are two major challenges in Vietnam
Dr. Thai Thi MinhRegional
Director, Rikolto in Vietnam
The purpose of the workshop was threefold: 1) to celebrate 10 years of PGS in Vietnam, 2) to share the findings of a nationwide assessment study on PGS, and 3) to introduce a new trainers’ toolbox to support practitioners to set up and operate high-quality PGSs in Vietnam. The event brought together over 60 representatives of decision-makers, academia, international partners, the private sector and NGOs.
The presentation of the study results was followed by a panel discussion that raised a series of important questions: Should the government be involved in PGS and how? What is the role of the private sector in developing and/or supporting PGS? Can PGS be used to certify products for traditional markets? What is the status of PGS in the Mekong Region? How can we preserve the reputation and quality of PGS as the network of local PGSs expands? What is the added value of PGS compared to other certification and quality assurance systems?
Pierre Ferrand, coordinator of the Agroecology Learning Alliance in Southeast Asia (ALiSEA), shared his insights about ongoing PGS initiatives in the Mekong region. He highlighted the strong institutional and policy framework in place in Laos and the role of the Ministry of Trade in promoting organic agriculture in Cambodia. At the regional level, PGS plays an important role in the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s strategy to promote safe and environmentally-friendly agriculture. Having understood the potential of PGS, ADB ambitions to convince governments to scale up PGS in the Mekong region.
Over the 10 years of their existence in Vietnam, local PGSs for organic and safe vegetables have yielded positive results in terms of food safety, environmental sustainability, community development and better income for farmers. Their strength lays in their ability to incentivize smallholder farmers to produce safe vegetables and to build consumers’ confidence that they are indeed safe. In order to replicate these encouraging results, PGSs should be multiplied and upscaled to better meet markets’ increasing demand for safe and organic products. To ensure the sustainability and coherence of PGS in Vietnam, we believe that a legal framework must be built to recognise and support the development of PGS in Vietnam. Rikolto remains available to support and advise interested actors in establishing new or joining existing PGSs.