Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) for safe vegetables quality assurance in Vietnam
PGS is a participatory certification mechanism that enables smallholders to guarantee the quality of their produce at an affordable cost.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Rikolto International (previously VECO)
Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Vietnam: Da Nang city, Ha Nam, Phu Tho and Vinh Phuc provinces (2018: Ha Noi)
Farmers participating in a group inspection, together with other stakeholders. They verify whether farmers from a different group belonging to the same PGS comply with the requirements of the food safety standard.
A 3-minute video drawing the portrait of Mr. Nguyen Van Nghia, leader of Tu Xa Cooperative, and how PGS changed the lives of the farmers involved.
PGS logo for safe vegetables
Field inspection in Tan Duc Cooperative, Phu Tho province
Vegetables are ready for shipping at Trac Van Collaborative Group, Ha Nam province (Organic PGS)
Clear labeling and packaging ensure the traceability of Trac Van's organic vegetables
Feeding Hanoi is a 15-minute movie directed by Michiel Crijns. It follows the life of Ms. Yen, a proud farmer from Trac Van, in Ha Nam province, who made to switch to organic farming to improve her livelihoods and protect her family's health.
Learn about how Participatory Guarantee Systems work with this 6-min introductory video.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
In VN, pesticide use increased 3-fold between 2002-12 and up to 80% of agricultural pesticides are used incorrectly. The government is promoting a 3rd-party safety certification but due to its high cost, it remains largely inaccessible to smallholders (in 2015, 2% of vegetable producing areas had a certificate). Few farmers invest in safe production as they can hardly access safe markets without a certificate. In Hanoi, 93% of consumers are worried about food safety but few consume safe vegetables due to lack of trust.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
PGS is a methodology developed by IFOAM for organic farming and applied in >70 countries. We use the same methodology but with BasicGAP, a national food safety standard. PGS offers a low-cost & reliable solution to farmers’ lack of safe market access and consumers’ lack of trust by involving them in the certification process. PGS is based on a 3-tiered approach: 1) internal control & support within each farmer group (composed of 5-10 households), 2) cross-checkings across farmer groups with the involvement of stakeholders (consumers, authorities, buyers) to verify compliance with BasicGAP, and 3) random inspections by the local coordination board, the multi-stakeholder entity that ultimately delivers certificates and coordinates the PGS. Building on initial successes, we are expanding the number of pilots (2017: 10 => 2021: 21) as part of our evidence-based advocacy strategy to convince provincial and national authorities to adopt PGS in their food safety & rural development policies.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
After 9 months of collaboration, Tu Xa Cooperative’s 1st farmer group obtained a PGS certificate. The farmers were then able to start a supply relationship with VinEco, the safe vegetables brand of Vietnam’s leading minimart chain, VinMart. The company offers a price 1.5-3 times higher than that on the local market, hence contributing to better livelihoods for farmers and the development of the Cooperative. On average, farmers’ income from vegetables increased 1.5-fold in 1 year. Furthermore, PGS certificates are not granted to individuals but to farmer groups, meaning that farmers must support each other. As such, PGS fosters community development and solidarity. Farmers’ compliance with the BasicGAP standard means that they are taking measures to reduce agrochemical use, implement integrated pest management, ensure the safety of soil & water, increase organic fertilizer use, and collect and dispose of waste responsibly, thus reducing their negative impact on the environment .
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Most PGS costs are related to capacity building such as trainings on the BasicGAP standard, PGS methodology, inspection skills, and business skills. This costs around 7,000USD for a cooperative of approximately 70 members. Once the PGS is established and the farmers have been trained, PGS is expected to be financially sustainable. Running costs are covered by farmers’ membership fee (~20 USD/farmer/year )+ a small fee paid by both farmers and buyers ( ~0.01 USD/kg of veggies). In the future, we hope that PGS will be included in governmt policy and that training costs will be covered by extension centres.
1. Individual donations: 3%
2. Grants: 97%
The initiative is currently funded by grants from the Belgian Development Cooperation, the Belgian National Lottery, 11.11.11 & our own means.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
This initiatives provides traceable and reliable safe food for consumers, better income for farmer and evidence in favour of the adoption of PGS by VN authorities. As part of our initiative, we are developing a PGS toolbox to provide interested stakeholders with the guidelines, tools and materials required to establish their own PGS. We are also currently exploring the possibility of using the PGS methodology together with rice produced according to the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
The Vietnamese diet is very fond of veggies which are traditionally steamed, stir fried or boiled in a soup. Unfortunately, we increasingly hear about consumers – usually mums with young children – complain about the struggle of finding reliable safe vegetables (i.e. with residues under safe consumption limits). The lack of proper labelling & a succession of scandals about fake brands & unreliable vendors has sparked increasing worry among consumers. On the other hand, we realised that there are very little incentives for farmers to invest in safe farming if they cannot guarantee that their produce is safe. So, although the demand for traceable safe vegetables is booming, supply cannot follow. In 2008, inspired by IFOAM’s PGS Organic initiative, we decided to set up a PGS pilot for safe vegetables. In 2017, the institutionalisation of PGS has become a cornerstone of our programme in VN.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others