Certification of agricultural products is a guarantee to the consumer of the quality of the goods they are receiving. In the case of organic, Demeter, or related certifications, it is also a guarantee to the consumer that particular care is taken to carry out an agricultural practice that is respectful of the land and the people who work on it.
In Argentina, although there is a high demand for certified organic products, there are inherent challenges to the traditional system for the producers. As mentioned in the “Background” section of this proposal, two thirds of producer ventures in the country are small- or family farmers, and most are not certified. For most, it is not economically justifiable to certify their products, and many are unwilling or unable to make the financial leap to scale up. They prefer to seek out direct forms of marketing, what often times depends on political whims that support direct marketing outlets in towns. The producers that have the economic means to seek out certification prefer to export their products, looking for more stable foreign markets. How can we establish a system of guarantee that offers the consumers the assurance that they want, that speaks for the quality that the producers aim for without being financially exclusive, and that can awaken a dormant, regional market for agroecological or related products?
We believe that participative certification is a guarantee system that will provide a solution for small-scale farmers. The system engages the farmers or consumer community to participate in the certification process, while reducing administrative costs. It is itself a dynamic social process that brings together the players of the regional food system to decide for themselves what they want, rather than awaiting the word of an inspector who might not be personally involved in the evolution or success of the farm.
The Seed Initiative wants to be an active promoter of innovative ways to promote food sovereignty, and participative certification will be a key aspect to this work. Already a group of individuals within AABDA, some with practical experience in this area, are researching how to establish a participative certification system for biodynamic products. Demeter International is also interested in promoting such approaches, and collaboration in pilot projects with AABDA are planned for the near future, such as with the Seed Initiative.
Since research and time is still needed to understand the legal and social aspects, we cannot yet estimate what kind of budget will be needed. We expect by the third year of the Initiative (2020-21), that a proposal can be made to work with the producers of the Seed Growers Network.