The purpose of organic certification is to answer the question “How do I know this is organic?”
First-party certification means a farmer offers their personal assurance that a product is organic. If the farmer is a relation, a neighbor, or someone you know well, you might be satisfied with first-party certification.
Second-party certification means that the farmer belongs to an organization, and that organization provides assurance that the product is organic.
Third-party certification means that an independent inspector from an accredited certifying agency visits the farm and verifies that the farmer is following organic practices.
When organic products are exported to other countries, the land needs to be certified by an accredited and internationally recognized certification agency that is recognized in the importing country.
For small-scale organic farmers that only supply local markets, it can be difficult to manage the costs and paperwork requirements of third-party certification. Because of this, many countries have started to develop alternative verification systems for local markets where producers and consumers have the opportunity to meet directly.
In a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), producers and consumers volunteer their time to maintain standards and systems, inspect farms, and ensure that products are organic. The goal is to keep costs down and make organic food more accessible and affordable. PGS can also serve as a stepping-stone for small-scale farmers and make it easier for them to get third-party certification for export in the future.
Good Market has incubated an Organic Participatory Guarantee System in Sri Lanka that is recognized by IFOAM Organics International. If you are in Sri Lanka and want to get involved, you can contact the PGS Coordinator at +94773772122 or by email.
If you want to start a PGS in your own area, we are happy to help. Feel feel to use the resources on this site, and if you have any questions, get in touch.