Organic certification process, a participatory approach now
Bhubaneswar: At a time when the organic sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world with more and more people becoming aware of the advantage of organically produced food, consumers also keep in mind that organic food must be certified. However, the certification process has posed a challenge for smallholder farmers. To make the certification process easy for the small farmers, Living Farms, a non-government organisation, is working with the organic farmers to promote the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), intimated PGS trainer Chaitanya Pradhan.
During a peer review for PGS that was organised recently on November 29 at Kutragada for the farmer groups of Bissam-Cuttack, Muniguda and Chandrapur blocks of Rayagada district, he said, for small-scale farming, PGS have proven to be a practical alternative to third-party certification and an effective way to develop local markets for organically produced food.
According to Bharat Kasi, a progressive farmer of Singari village, who was also a part of the review training meet, the third-party certification system requires the farmers to get involved in a huge paperwork and bear the cost of an independent auditor to verify compliance with norms and regulations. This in turn raises the price of organic produce so much that it becomes out of reach for consumers.
In such context, PGS is an alternative way for farmers to monitor and support one another in certifying their produce, based on the strict requirements issued by the government, he added.
Elaborating the system, project coordinator of India for Eco Food Campaign Mr Jagatbandhu Mohapatra said that PGS is a community-based certification system that organises farmers into groups and coordinates regular peer reviews or inspections of their members. The groups come together and connect to consumers, traders, local officials, agronomists and NGOs working in the area. The groups are responsible for making certification decisions, maintaining the PGS standards and procedures, issuing approval seals and assuring compliance with ministry regulations. Most of the work is conducted on a voluntary basis, which brings down the cost of organic food.
Around 50 farmers belonging to 16 farmers’ groups of the locality took part in the review-cum-training programme. While each group comprises 10-12 farmers, at least two farmers represent each group in the event.
The farmers, who follow organic process, were trained on the review mechanism – field observation; individual farmer certification and other processes of PGS which raises awareness of the benefits of organic food and makes healthy eating affordable for everyone.