In October 2013 a project 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 Vitoon Panyakul’s attempt in Thailand is noteworthy – he was there in Brazil in 2004 but had sort of withdrawn after that.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.