PGS governance webinar kicks off exciting exchange of knowledge

On 20 January 2022, the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in Southern Africa (KHSA) hosted the first PGS webinar focusing on governance of participatory guarantee systems (PGS). Eight speakers from various African countries, as well as Brazil and India, shared their experiences and knowledge to an audience of over 300 people.

Sara Anselmi from IFOAM-Organics International spoke about the PGS approach to certification, and the benefits and challenges of the system. “It is very important to keep in mind that PGS initiatives are unique,” Anselmi said, “and there are important differences across and even within countries.” IFOAM supports PGS development, advocates for its recognition by governments, and supports its development globally. To date, IFOAM has recorded 242 PGS initiatives in 78 countries, with over 1,2-million producers certified.

Esther Kagai is part of the Community Sustainable Agriculture and Healthy Empowerment Program in Kenya. Motivated by a desire for change in the way that organic food is certified, and wishing to promote equity and fairness through the value chain, PGS was established in Kenya in 2017. They now have 5 certified groups with several more being trained. Kagai said: “PGS is appropriate to smallholder agriculture with principles and values that reflect the culture of the producers. Farmer groups use recognised standards, and mechanisms ensure that farmer’s comply with the rules.”

Next to speak was Sasha Mentz, the PGS South Africa (SA) Coordinator. PGS SA currently has 13 farmer groups and 16 emerging groups being established. This totals 632 farmers of which 335 farmers certified and means that 415ha is under organic production. Mentz explained that PGS is a decentralised system and groups are self-governedbut aligned to key principles.

“PGS SA provides guidance to establish farmer groups, supports networking and provides access to an organic certification landscape with nationally recognised seals and logos, and quality control,” said Mentz. “PGS groups are obliged to share any deviation from the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) standard.”

Ana Luiza Meirelles from Centro Ecologico in Brazil spoke about the Ecovida Network which involves approximately 5,000 families, 400 farmer groups, 30 NGO’s and 400 local street markets. “We currently have 32 regional nucleithathave autonomy but are supported by various committees assisting with coordination, ethics and verification,” she said.

Karthik Gunasekar from PGS Organic Council in India spoke about the journey of PGS in his country. “We envision a future of socially, ecologically and economically just food systems guaranteed by trust and participation, driven by traditional ecological knowledge systems and co-owned and controlled by communities adhering to principles of co-operation,” he said. “PGS is about building social capital and community engagement which forms resilient communities.”

Other speakers included Ousmane Labodja, an IFOAM-OIFacilitator in Togo, and Herve Bouagnimbeck from the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in West Africa, Cameroon.

The webinar was an exciting exchange of experiences and knowledge with the aim of strengthening organic networks in the region. It is the first part in a series with the second webinar planned for the middle of 2022. For more information, please contact info@pgssa.org.za.


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