10 years of Participatory Guarantee Systems in Vietnam: A Capitalisation Study

10 years of Participatory Guarantee Systems in Vietnam: A Capitalisation Study


Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a low-cost quality assurance mechanism that guarantees the quality of agricultural products and has the potential to regain consumers’ trust. Introduced in Vietnam in the organic agriculture sector, it has been implemented in the country for over 10 years to certify safe and organic vegetables.

As part of the project “Capitalisation of Participatory Guarantee System experiences in Vietnam for upscaling & institutionalisation”, funded by the Agroecology Learning Alliance in Southeast Asia, Vietnam National University of Agriculture and Rikolto investigated all existing PGS in Vietnam to assess their strengths and weaknesses and come up with recommendations on how to improve PGSs in the Vietnamese context. This Executive Summary compiles the study’s main findings and recommendations.

The full summary of the study can be downloaded at the end of this article.

Analysis of PGS’ effectiveness

1. Consumers’ access to safe food

PGSs that have been established for multiple years and are engaged in outreach activities perform better thanks to their earned reputation with consumers and buyers. Recent PGSs and the ones located away from major cities often struggle to meet consumers’ demand due to unstable distribution channels, lack of visibility, poor diversity of vegetable varieties, and small selling volumes. The biggest challenges are the absence of recognition of PGS certification by the government and the lack of familiarity of consumers with PGSs.

2. Income and market access

Well-functioning PGSs have undeniably increased market access for their member farmers. The study revealed that farmers’ income from PGS vegetables is higher than income from non-PGS vegetables and other crops, such as rice. Farmers’ average income from PGS safe and organic vegetables varies from VND 2.5 to 10 million per month depending on the size of the production area and the season. Despite the majority of PGSs having stable selling contracts with retailers and/or collective kitchens, they still struggle to meet buyers’ volume and varieties requirements.

3. Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability in PGS farms is ensured by farmers’ compliance with either an organic or GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standard. Under PGS organic rules, farmers are prohibited to use chemical fertilizer and plant protection products, and to destruct forests and other ecosystems. They are also required to prevent erosion and salinity intrusion and to add a green manure crop to the crop rotation structure. Under BasicGAP, farmers must: 1) follow official guidelines for agrochemicals’ use, 2) learn about Integrated Pest Management, 3) record any use of chemicals, and 4) dispose of waste safely. Farmers self-reported benefits on their own health and on soil fertility.

4. Community-building and social sustainability

Interviewed farmers mentioned that since PGS started in their community, they had felt increased social cohesion among farmers, and had learned about their responsibility towards the community. Some underlined the importance of their group’s assistance and enthusiasm in encouraging them to pursue organic farming. Some PGSs regularly organise fairs and community activities to enable farmers to exchange experiences and learn from each other.

SWOT analysis of PGSs in Vietnam

Recommendations for the improvement of PGS in Vietnam

  1. PGS certificates should be officially recognised by provincial and / or the national government as valid quality assurance to build consumers’ trust in PGS.
  2. PGSs should be multiplied and upscaled to better meet markets’ demand. Suitable areas for PGS development should be included in authorities’ planning.
  3. A comprehensive training programme targeting farmers’ organic/safe production capacity, post-harvest handling and storage, business skills, production planning and organisational capacity should accompany the PGS development process. The programme should be delivered using participatory training methods such as Farmer Field Schools, putting the farmer at the centre of the learning process.
  4. PGSs should explicitly allocate roles and responsibilities for production planning, marketing, business planning, traceability and information management among its members. LCBs should only include members who can actively bring an added value to PGSs.
  5. A resource mobilisation strategy must be clearly defined and implemented within each PGS to allow for infrastructure investment and compensation of LCB members for their efforts.
  6. Investment in communication and visibility should be an integral part of PGSs’ business and / or development plan.
  7. A portion of the PGSs’ profits should be earmarked for sample residue analysis. Intergroups should engage authorities and regular buyers to financially support lab tests.
  8. PGSs should develop strategic partnerships with mass organisations such as the Women’s Union, the Farmers’ Union and the Youth Union to encourage more farmers to join PGS and increase their visibility.
  9. PGSs should more actively engage representatives of consumers to participate in inspections, LCBs and field visits in order to build more trust between farmers and end-consumers.
  10. To support the institutionalisation of PGS, reliable data on PGSs’ performance should be collected as evidence for decision-making.
  11. Local governments should support PGSs with land consolidation policies to more easily enable farmers to form groups.


Rikolto and VNUA express their sincere gratitude to all the farmers, consumers, representatives of companies, local authorities and NGOs for their participation in the PGS capitalisation study. Their insights offer a wealth of knowledge and have strongly contributed to improving our understanding of the current situation of PGS in Vietnam.


  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Thi Dinh, Team Leader of the study, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Vietnam National University of Agriculture, ttdinh [at] vnua.edu.vn

  • Mr. Hoang Thanh Hai, Vegetable Programme Coordinator, Rikolto, hai.hoang [at] rikolto.org