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Foxtail millet threshing Anjanreddy Bayamma

Participatory Gurantee Systems for organic certification followed by Timbaktu Collective


The Timbaktu Collective ( has promoted 158 organic farmers’ sanghas (Local Groups) with a total of 2,106 members owning 12,192 acres in 60 villages. As a Facilitation Council (FC) of PGS Organic Council (PGSOC), the Collective supports the Sanghas in the PGS organic certification process. The Collective has also promoted Dharani FaM CooP Ltd, a cooperative owned by all the 2,106 farmers, which procures, processes and markets the produce of its members.

Foxtail millet threshing Anjanreddy BayammaFarmers’ Sanghas (Local Groups)

All small holder farming families who own 3 to 10 acres of agricultural land, who are willing to cooperate and work as per sangha norms and adopt organic norms and standards stipulated by the PGSOC, are eligible to become members.

Structure of the Local groups (Sanghas) and Sub Groups (Brundams)

A group of 4 to 6 farmers form a Brundam. This is the base of the PGS organic certification process. The members stand guarantee for each other and own lands adjacent to each other or atleast in the same vicinity. Two to three of these Brundams are federated to form a Sangha of 10 to 15 members in order to form a PGS Organic Local Group. Each Sangha and Brundam has a unique name and ID number.

Each Brundam has an elected leader. From among these leaders, one man and one woman are elected leaders of the Sangha (local group). Each family must have a woman member who is an active member of the women’s thrift cooperatives of the Mahasakthi MACTS network promoted by the Collective.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Sangha (Local Group)

The Sangha confirms new members or removes erring members. It meets twice a month; one for review of the work done and the other to plan for the next month. Each Sangha maintains following documents

1.            Member register
2.            Minutes book
3.            Agriculture equipment register
4.            Asset register
5.            Farmer diary
6.            Pledge & PGS standards
7.            PGS Inspection Sheet
8.            Field map
9.            PGS Certificate

PGS Inspection Foxtail millet cropDisqualification/removal from the Sangha

If any Sangha members is found using any chemical/synthetic inputs in any of her/his fields during either internal or external inspection, s/he will be given a chance to continue in the Sangha if s/he promises that it will not be repeated. Membership is cancelled, if any member, after having been excused once, continues to use any chemical/synthetic inputs and/or violates any norms of the Sangha. All decisions are recorded in the minutes of the Sangha meeting.

Internal Control System (ICS)

The Collective has appointed one Cadre with adequate experience in farming and social mobilization, to support Sanghas in 3 to 5 villages with around 90 to 150 farmer members. The Cadre are responsible for promoting and monitoring organic agriculture practices in the villages and facilitate communication between Dharani Cooperative and the Sanghas.

The work in 15 to 25 villages is monitored by an assistant Coordinator with extensive experience in farming and social mobilization, covering between 500 to 700 farmers. They guide the Cadre and are responsible for organic farming production and the certification process.

Every village has a Sangha office where monthly Sangha meetings are conducted and all documents related to organic farming, PGS inspection, agriculture equipments, etc., are kept.

PGS Inspection Groundnut crop 2 PothireddyPGS Inspection Committee

The Coordinator constitutes a PGS Inspection Committee with six members – one Cadre and five farmers in each village to inspect the farmer plots. Each Brundam also conducts an internal inspection of its members. The Cadre, who is responsible for a particular village is not a member of the inspection committee. However, the Cadre is present whenever inspection is conducted in her/his villages.

PGS inspections are conducted atleast two times during each cropping season through the year. The Coordinator prepares the village wise schedule for the inspection, supervises the inspections, documents inspection committee proceedings, reports the post inspection details to the Collective and Dharani Cooperative.

Based on inspection committee report, the Sangha decides organic status of each farmer at the end of each inspection. Final decision of organic certification is taken by Sangha. In certain cases where minor violations are found, the Sangha may pardon the farmer if it is of the opinion that farmer has been complying with organic standards in letter and spirit.

PGS Organic Certification Process

Step I

1. Farmer understands organic standards with help of Sangha and Cadres;
2. Decides to embrace organic farming and is willing to be a part of PGS certification process;
3. Stops using all synthetic and chemical inputs on his/her farm plots;
4. Signs a PGS pledge committing to adhere to organic standards.

Step 2

1. Farmer regularly participates in the meetings of Sangha and the Farmers Field School;
2. Maintains necessary documents – field maps, pledge duly signed and a farmer diary. Farmers can take help of Cadre in their village or other members of the Sangha to maintain the documents;
3. Participates in peer appraisals of their farm plots and those of her/his Brundam, as part of PGS inspection.

Organic Pledge -PGS Inspection Narasimha swamy Organic Group Step 3

1. PGS Inspection committee/team conducts inspection twice – one, after sowing and the other during harvesting or post harvesting but before sale;
2. Inspection team members do physical checks of various parts of the farm plots and more importantly ask questions (based on PGS-Inspection Sheet) to make sure that the farmer understands the organic standards and s/he is complying to all the requirements;
3. Inspection team members make sure that every point in the Inspection Sheet is completed and checked for accuracy. At the end, all inspectors present sign as supporting references and endorse the farmer’s organic guarantee. Inspections are done in the presence of the farmer. The inspection sheet is duly signed by the farmer.

Step 4

1. After inspection of fields of Brundam members is completed, the Brundam and Sangha decides who is to be certified in a given year. This decision is based on PGS-Inspection team’s observations recorded in inspection sheet;
2. The Sangha prepares local group summary and sends signed hard copy to the Collective. Cadres of the respective villages assist the Sangha in this regard;
3. The Collective files the Sangha details internally;
4. The Collective sends the details to the secretariat of PGSOC requesting it to issue certificates for the Sanghas inspected;
5. As and when PGS certification renewal is due, the Collective sends request to the secretariat of PGSOC for renewal of certificate once inspection has been completed;
6. The secretariat of PGSOC provides certificates to each group after all the documents have been received and verified;
7. On receiving the group certificate, the Collective prints and issues the certificate to the Local Group (Sangha). PGS certificates is displayed in the village Sangha offices;
8. Dharani, as the marketing entity, can use the PGS logo on packets or containers of PGS certified products;
9. Dharani provides an unique ID code to individual farmers based on software called Cropin.


Cropin is a software adopted by the Timbaktu Collective to support the PGS certification process. Cropin records the GPS coordinates for every plot and all information in the farmer’s diary. It generates GIS maps for each crop or location. Each Cadre is allotted certain number of farmers and provided a TAB to digitally record all information, take photos, record videos, etc.

All the digital data uploaded in web-based software is administered by the Collective. Cropin software is used to collect reports on sowing, package of practices, pest management, weeding, harvesting etc. Solutions for a particular issue are shared with other farmers easily.

Foxtail millet Farmer JayammaStatus of PGS certification for members of Dharani Coop

Out of 158 Sanghas, 112 have received organic certificates as per PGSOC standards. 48 Sanghas have PGS certificates valid till 14th September 2019, and 64 groups have certificates valid upto 24th February 2020. Remaining 46 groups are under PGS conversion and will receive certificates once the three year conversion period is completed and the PGS inspection is completed. Agriculture produce from only 112 groups is procured, processed, packed and marketed as organic by Dharani FaM CooP Ltd., under the brand name Timbaktu Organic.


PGS Organic Council Holds its Annual General Body Meeting in Bangalore

Participatory Guarantee Systems Organic Council helds its Management Committee meeting on the 4th of July 2015 followed by its Annual General Body meeting on the 5th of DSC02050July at Indian Social Institute in Bangalore. Quorum was established and leave of absence from Pan Himalayan Grass Roots and ICRA were accepted to start the proceedings. The meeting was attended by members of 12 organization who are part of the Facilitation Council. Ashish Gupta stepped down as Secretary and P. B. Murali replaced him as Secretary and representative of Organic Farmers Association of India (OFAI). Mathew John stepped down as Treasurer and was replaced by T. Samraj who also represented Keystone Foundation.  The important decision taken in the meeting is to working with National Centre for Organic Farming (NCOF) which is running the PGS program promoted by Ministry of Agriculture without compromising the soverignity of PGS Organic Council run by Civil Society Organizations. The two day meeting was concluded with a decision to have the next Management Committee meeting in Bubhaneshwar, Odisha.


Organic products within reach of common man, thanks to PGS

Children in Puducherry are taking a fancy to a dates-based toffee over traditional chocolates to celebrate their birthdays.

The toffee is among the many organic products available at the local ‘uzhavar sandhai’ (farmers’shandy ). While ‘organic’ products are nothing new to Puducherry, thanks to the influence of the Ashram and Auroville, this is the first time the toffee and a range of other products such as millets, vegetables, fruits and rice grains have been certified here.

Unlike Tamil Nadu which has a government certification department for organic products, organic farmers in Puducherry had to depend on third party certification or sell without certification so far. This has changed with the introduction of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) in Puducherry.

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Organic by Trust: Participatory Guarantee Systems of Certification (PGS)

Mathew John, World Board Member at IFOAM, Director at Keystone Foundation that runs the Last Forest brand, talks about how PGS systems are working today in India and abroad.

How do you know your food is organic? The most popular method is the third party certification. However, recently, driven by costs, time and accessibility issues involved in third party certification, an alternative movement has been emerging.

PGS offer a complementary, low-cost, locally-based system of quality assurance, with a heavy emphasis on social control and knowledge building. PGS, as a complementary method to third-party certification, is essential to the continued growth of the Organic Movement especially if we want to include poorer small-holder farmers who have the most to benefit from Organic.

PGS And the Small-Holders Market

PGS And the Small-Holders Market – Presented at the Asia Pacific Symposium 2nd to 4th December 2013

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) held a symposium in Bangkok between 2nd and 4th of December. Earlier in September 2013, papers were invited for presentation at the symposium. Ashish Gupta, had researched and submitted a paper on PGS and the Smallholders Market as a case study on how PGS is structured in India and the operational case of the PGS Organic Council.

The paper entails the working of the PGS OC as a conglomeration of NGO/VOs to implement grass-root community based certification systems as well as assist with marketing in a fair and just manner to various farmer groups across India. It was shown how PGSOC has seen a manifold increase in land hectarage, farmer groups and overall sales of produce. It also discussed the challenges to the economics of scale and various mitigation techniques in implementation of PGS in the future.

The paper was very well received and presentation was made in person by Ashish Gupta. Overall the acceptance of PGS was delivered strongly to all present and it resulted in the Assistant Director-General of FAO commenting in the closing speech –

On marketing and certification I understand that there is great interest in the promotion and capacity building in the field of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) because these hold the promise of low cost certification for groups of small farmers.”

In addition, there was also interest generated in a number of international organizations in the way PGS was implemented in India. All this has resulted in greater exposure of PGSOC and also validated the process model of PGSOC to implement PGS at the grass-root level strongly in the future.