The Japanese organic farmland share is only 0.3% [1]. This is partly because of its dependency on;

  • third-party certification which can be costly for many operators,
  • low governmental financial support for organic operators,
  • and low consumer organic food awareness.

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) has been identified as an alternative way to increase the number of certified farmers, improve access to certification for the local market, improve consumer-producer linkages and raise awareness.

Organic Shizukuishi decided to introduce PGS in 2015 in Shizukuishi, Japan. Organic Shizukuishi follows the Japanese Agricultural Standard for Organic Plants (JAS), which was recognized in the IFOAM Family of Standards in 2014. In 2018, Organic Shizukuishi PGS was approved in the scope of the Official PGS Recognition program of IFOAM – Organics International.

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.

Group photo of the Organic Shizukuishi farm peer reviews

Much as JAS has been effective since 2005, only 12,027 ha farm lands have been certified against it as of 2020 [2]. To understand whether PGS might be a solution to complement third party certification in Japan and increase the certified acreage percentage, Organic Shizukuishi analyzed a publication done in 2011[3].  The publication was on the main reasons for operators to give up the JAS certification, or to not apply for it altogether.

Organic Shizukuishi is a member of IFOAM – Organics International since 2015. This year, we are celebrating together with the members our 50-year anniversary by raising awareness of organic and its benefits for global food systems, our health, and the planet. Check out the official Year of Organics toolkit!

Objectives and processes of Organic Shizukuishi PGS

Organic Shizukuishi started by studying the materials, guidelines and case studies provided by IFOAM – Organics International on PGS, so as to understand the differences between PGS and third-party certification.

Then the Organic Shizukuishi team studied the key elements and ten features of PGS at their regular meetings and created all the documentation, by exchanging knowledge with IFOAM – Organics International.

While third party certification normally focuses only on verification and guarantee services, PGS initiatives are always associated with the local community. They try to bridge the gap between farmers and the local community while contributing to sustainable organic farming and educating the general public to understand the advantages of a safe and secure source of organic produce.

Organic Shizukuishi‘s major PGS activities are farm peer reviews and promoting education of good eating habits for children at a daycare.

The children at the daycare center

Other activities include:

  • The creation of jobs in the local communities through organic farming
  • The use of organic produce for their member’s Bed & Breakfast meals
  • The revitalization of deserted arable lands by organic no-till farming

The Organic Shizukuishi community set up the Allied PGS meeting in 2021 to assist prospective PGS initiatives in Fukushima, Chiba, Nagano, Aichi, Gifu, Hiroshima prefectures. This creates a promising perspective on the future because PGS could contribute to the increase of the share of organic land as well as raise consumer awareness in the country.

Some impressions of the farm peer reviews which are part of Organic Shizukuishi‘s major PGS activities

References

[1] IFOAM – Organics International and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL “The World of Organic Agriculture – Statistics and Emerging Trends 2022 (online)”page 44,February 15, 2022

[2] JAS Certified Japanese Farm Lands 

[3] Michinori Nishio (2011) No.187 Results of a survey on organic farming other than JAS organic than JAS organic

[4] Ryoichi Komiya, Takiko Komiya “The PGS and Small Organic Agribusiness”, 5th ISOFAR Scientific Conference “Innovative Research for Organic 3.0” at the 19th Organic World Congress, New Delhi, India, November 9-11, 2017