New Delhi, 3 rd October: The First National Conference on Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for Organic Agriculture is being held at Indian Social Institute in New Delhi between 3rd and 4th October\'07, with an aim to exchange knowledge on the experiences in implementation of PGS, to define the role of civil society, government, and key stakeholders in promoting PGS at a wider scale with the involvement of small farmers and to facilitate local markets for the organic produce of the small and marginal farmers. The conference was attended by government representatives, NGOs, other development organizations, and farmer groups across the country. The conference resulted in the network of individuals and organizations with a shared development goal. Organic agriculture holds the key for rural transformation and sustainable development in our country. This practice of agriculture involves preservation of natural bio-diversity and effective management of biological and natural resources to improve farm productivity and pest management without the use of any external inputs such as chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, and Genetically Modified (GM) inputs. With organic farming practices, the country will be less dependent on unsustainable inputs which would simultaneously enhance local environmental resources and national food security, while contributing towards rural livelihood opportunities. Though there are obvious benefits of organic cultivation and consumption, the small and marginal farmers face a challenge to guarantee their produce as organic in local and domestic markets. The third party certification process to guarantee organic produce involves exhaustive documentation and high costs which are beyond the capacity of the small farmers As an alternative, a community based certification with local standards was pioneered by Dr. Alexander Daniel of Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD), Aurangabad and implemented in Paithan Taluka of Maharashtra since 1998. This system called as Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) involves the farmers themselves in guaranteeing their produce as organic as per the norms and standards defined by the local group of farmers. The marketing of such produce is based on mutual trust and cooperation between consumers and producers and thus is more applicable for local and domestic marketing. This system is being implemented in different parts of the country as an alternative to the formal third party certification which benefits the small and marginal farmers. Dr. Daniel Gustafson,resident Representative,FAO( Food & Agriculture Organisation) India said \" Indian context is different fron the west market. Unlike other peoples Indian people have more spiritual connection between food and health. So organic culture can be easily correlated with Indian context. But here people are not much aware of the organic food and its culture .Even Indian Supermarkets is not differentiable between organic and non organic food and there is no brand separation too.\" He emphasized on the PGS certification to a national system which should be uniform all over the country. Dr. Suman Sahai, President, Gene campaign said \"There should be a rational standard which ensure the food safety across the country. Its became a challenge to the farmers and the policy makers to standardize the products used for the farming, pesticides, water etc. Now new technology of genetic engineering seeds became a threat to the farming in India.\" According to her Organic farming is more affordable than the other form of agriculture. Ms Daniel, President of IIRD has awakened the Indian farmers to bring bask the glory of farming through Organic Agriculture which will definitely opens the various opportunity of branding.
About PGS: Participatory Guarantee Systems share a common goal with change to third party certification systems in providing a credible guarantee for consumers seeking organic produce. The difference is in approach. As the name suggests, direct participation of farmers and even consumers in the certification process is not only encouraged but may be required. Such involvement is entirely realistic in the context of the small farms and local, direct markets that PGS systems are most likely to serve. Active participation on the part of the stakeholders results in greater empowerment but also greater responsibility. This requires PGS programs to place a high priority on knowledge and capacity building -not only for producers but for consumers as well. This direct involvement allows PGS programs to be less onerous in terms of paperwork and record-keeping requirements -an important element, since PGS systems seek to be absolutely inclusive in bringing small farmers into an organic system of production. In stark contrast to existing certification programs that start with the idea that farmers must prove they are in compliance to be certified, PGS programs use an integrity based approach that starts with a foundation of trust. It builds from there with an unparalleled transparency and openness, maintained in an environment that minimizes hierarchies and administrative levels. IIRD,The Organisers
Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) is a premier development organization founded by late Dr.Alexander Daniel, in Maharashtra State in India, promoting development alternatives through the initiatives of groups of rural poor for over two decades. IIRD involves in promoting organic agriculture as one of its main agenda and has promoted organic agriculture through awareness programmes, training of farmers, community action programmes on organic agriculture, networking with like minded organizations and lobbying nationally and internationally for organic agriculture. For its outstanding contribution to eco-centered development, IIRD received the international Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) award. IIRD and its partner organisations are presently implementing a national programme for domestic marketing of organic produce of small farmers, through innovative marketing structures \"organic bazaars\". The organic bazaar movement initiated in 1998 with the establishment of the organic bazaar in Aurangabad, has now spread to 13 locations in different parts of India empowering thousands of small organic farmers through alternative marketing systems that create partnerships between consumers and producers. A National Coordinating Committee (NCC) has been constituted for implementing this programme. IIRD along with the NCC is organizing the conference
Web Site: http://www.responsenet.org/show.detail.asp?id=4065