The Timbaktu Collective (www.timbaktu.org) 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.