As demand for safe vegetables intensifies, international certifications and even Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) certification remain too expensive for small-scale farmers.

At a recent conference in Hanoi, experts touted the benefits of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), a community-based monitoring system that offers a more affordable means of quality assurance.

While the average cost for VietGAP certification ranges from 20-45 million VND (940-2,115 USD) for 24 months, and it is only suitable for large-scale producers, the PGS model only requires 440-500 sq.m and costs between 250,000 VND (12 USD) and 350,000 VND (17 USD) per household per year.

"My income since applying PGS is 3-5 million VND (142-237 USD), double what it was before," said Tran Thi Ha, a farmer from northern Phu Tho province's Viet Tri city.

However, Dao The Anh, Director of Centre for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD), cautionary noted "because the system has been promoted only by a few foreign development agencies, barely 5 percent of consumers know about it."

PGS has been applied in the northern provinces of Phu Tho and Lang Son with the support of VredesEilanden, an independent Belgian organisation, and in Hanoi's Soc Son district and northern Hoa Binh province's Luong Son district by the Agricultural Development Denmark Asia (ADDA).

Speakers at the conference said that the community-based monitoring system should be expanded and more consumers should be informed about how it works.

PGS was first introduced in 2004 by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), and the Latin American Agroecology Movement (MAELA).-VNA