In October 2013 aproject funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)to promote PGS was launched. Under the Core Agricultural Support Program Phase 2, countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion(GMS), ADB envisages the GMS to be recognized as the leading producer of safe food, using climate-friendly agricultural practices and integrated into global markets through regional economic corridors. This attempt to introduce PGS at a regional level in the framework of this project is quite noteworthy. As Chris May, who is the main implementer of the project, says, who would have thought in 2004, sitting in Torres/Brazil at the first international workshop on alternative certification that PGS would slowly evolve and develop into such a buzzword. Now ADB is supporting it and finances pilot projects in 6 countries in the region.
I was invited to come to Hanoi/Vietnam to be part of the regional workshop on 5th and 6th of March and the Vietnam national workshop on 7 March. Participants represented the government as well as the civil society. For me, the response was a pleasant surprise – even though many of thecountries in the regionhave taken only small steps at exploring organic agriculture, many of the participants knew that here was something about organic and PGS that they could take back home and show that it could work. A presentation by Ms. Sununtar Setboonsarng, Southeast Asia Department/ADB set the background for the regional workshop. It was followed by a presentation by Chris May who gave a brief overview on PGS and then it was an opportunity for me to share how the process has moved in India; how IFOAM has recognized PGSat a global level and how the Indian civil society and governments have moved simultaneously on building the PGS platform.Presentations from all the other countries – Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and China (2 provinces) gave a glimpse of efforts being made in their countries.
The different experiences provided the participants with an opportunity to understand various approaches taken in different contexts. The presentation by Karen Mapusa on the efforts of POETCom (Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community) was excellent. Vitoon Panyakul’s attempt in Thailand is noteworthy – he was there in Brazil in 2004 but had sort of withdrawn after that. This revival bodes well for the region.
There was a field visit on the 2nd day and it was encouraging to see the confidence with which the Vietnamese farmers spoke about PGS. Many of the women farmers were there for the national workshop. I hope that the enthusiasm remains with the participants as they head back to their countries and organizations.
The next project-activities planned are the national workshops in Laos and Thailand in May.
The Gandhian Study Center, Thodupuzha had been requesting for a PGS awareness creation workshop for the farmers of Idukki District. On the 19th of March, Samraj conducted a session on PGS certification to GREEN FARMERS NABARD CLUB of Melkavu Mattom at Gandian Study Center meeting hall. The meeting was attended by nine farmers from the Club along with 20 farmers from Idukki District who have been attending a training program conducted by the Central Coconut Board. The workshop started with two organic farmers from Thodupuzha town explaining their experiences and their success with organic farming. This was followed by a brief introduction by Mr. Siby who is coordinating the organic farming efforts by Gandhian Study Center.
In a two hour session, the modalities of PGS certification mechanism, how to apply and procedure for maintaining records were explained in detail. Due to a high level of literacy in Kerala, the farmers did not express any difficulty in maintaining records and were willing to go through the procedures and maintain necessary records. The concept was new and there were a lot of questions regarding how to use this certificate and where they could sell their produce. As Idukki is a high rainfall area with diverse crops, the farmers have a natural advantage in producing and marketing their produce, locally. A major part of the discussion focussed on farmers expressing their concern of pesticides in food, especially vegetables. They also expressed their concern on the high dependency of vegetable supplies from neighboring Tamil Nadu state.
The farmers wanted to visit Keystone Foundation for an exposure and the trip was tentatively scheduled for the last week of April 2013. On the 20th of March, there was a meeting held at the State Bank of Travancore, Melkavu Mattom branch with the Manager of the bank and the office bearers of the Green Farmers Nabard Club, in which the implementation of PGS certification and marketing support to be provided by the bank through its customer base was discussed. State Bank of Travancore, Melkavu Mattom is assisting the organic farmers with loans and financial assistance for buying farm tools and equipments. The next steps like setting up of Facilitation Council and forming Local Groups will be taken up during the first week of April 2013.
The Managing Committee met in the ICRA office (the newest member of PGSOC) at Bangalore. An old structure, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Bangalore city, the office provided a perfect space to discuss matters relating to the running of the society.
Ekoventure, an NGO based in Puducherry, is organizing a training programme for its farmers, on PGS. This prog will be on 6th & 7th April, 2013 and Leo from Keystone will help facilitate it.
They have been promoting organic farming methods among farmers through demonstrations and promoting the use of Amritpani, Panchagavya, Effective Microorganism, Indigenous Microorganism, etc. among farmers.