Group Certification: Market Access for Smallholder Agriculture

  • Mildred Steidle
  • Gerald A. HerrmannEmail author
Part of the Natural Resource Management in Transition book series (NRMT, volume 2)


The group certification concept is well established and consistently implemented under various certification schemes, such as organic. There is a common understanding of scope, principles and common criteria for group certification. Implementing an Internal Control System (ICS) is the centrepiece of group certification, allowing the certifier to delegate the monitoring of standard compliance of single group members to the ICS of the group; whereas the certifier evaluates proper functioning of the ICS when conducting the annual on-site inspection of the group. Finally, and based on a well-functioning ICS, the certifier issues a certificate authorising a group’s products to be labelled in line with applicable (organic) standards. Centralised marketing is compulsory, the certificate is issued to the entire group, single group members may not use the certificate. Group certification is opening the door for small scale farmers to access specialised markets such as regulated by sustainability or other quality standards. Targeted training programmes for groups’ representatives are needed to support implementation of group certification. In addition, and to create robust ICS systems, groups need appropriate software tools to ensure that all necessary ICS procedures throughout the workflow are applied consistently and documented in a verifiable manner. These tools must be affordable for grower groups, designed for global use, and suitable to administer certification according to various standards.


  1. CFS – Committee on World Food Security (2018) Connecting Smallholders to Markets. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  2. EC – European Commission (2003) Guidance document for the evaluation of the equivalence of organic producer group certification schemes applied in developing countries, 6 November 2003, AGRI/03-64290-00-00-EN. EC, Agriculture Directorate-GeneralGoogle Scholar
  3. EC – European Commission (2008) Guidelines on imports of organic products into the European Union, 15.12.2008, Rev.1. EC, DG for Agriculture and Rural Development. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  4. EC – European Commission (2013) Structure and dynamics of EU farms: changes, trends and policy relevance. EU Agricultural Economics Briefs No 9, October 2013. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  5. EC – European Commission (2017) The new organic Regulation: Fact Sheet, 20 November 2017. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  6. Fair Trade USA (2017) Agricultural Production Standard Version 1.0.0. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  7. Fairtrade International (2017) SPO Indicators for Average Number of Workers and Farm Size. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  8. FSC – Forest Stewardship Council (2017) Chain of Custody Certification, FSC-STD-40-004 V3-0. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  9. GLOBALG.A.P. (2017) General Regulations Part I – Annex I.4 GLOBALG.A.P. Definitions, 3 July, 2017. Integrated Farm Assurance Standard V5.1. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  10. GLOBALG.A.P. (2018) A Modular Approach to Integrated Farm Assurance. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  11. HLPE – High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (2013) Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security. HLPE Report 6. HLPE, Rome. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  12. IFAD – International Fund for Agricultural Development (2011) Smallholders can feed the world. IFAD, Rome. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  13. IFOAM - Organics International (2003) IFOAM’s position on small holder group certification for organic production and processing. IFOAM Head Office, Bonn. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  14. IFOAM - Organics International (2017) The IFOAM Norms for Organic Production and Processing, Edited version of the IFOAM Norms 2014, June 2017. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  15. ISO – International Organization for Standardization (2015) ISO 9000 family - Quality management. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  16. ISO – International Organization for Standardization (2018) The facts about certification. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  17. Naturland (2002) Manual for Quality Assurance: A Guideline for Internal Control Systems (ICS) in Smallholder Organisations, 2nd revised Edition, January 2002. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  18. NOSB – National Organic Standards Board (2002) Criteria for Certification of Grower Groups. NOSB Recommendation, adopted October 20, 2002. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  19. NOSB – National Organic Standards Board (2008) Certifying Operations with Multiple Production Units, Sites, and Facilities under the National Organic Program: Formal Recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to the National Organic Program (NOP), November 19, 2008. Accessed 31 Jan 2019
  20. Sahota A (2018) The global market for organic food & drink. In: Willer H, Lernoud J (eds) The world of organic agriculture: statistics and emerging trends 2018. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick and IFOAM - Organics International, Bonn, pp 146–150Google Scholar
  21. USDA – United States Department of Agriculture (2011) Certification of Grower Groups: Policy Memorandum 11-10. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, National Organic Program, Washington, DC. Accessed 31 Jan 2019

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Organic Services GmbHTutzingGermany

Personalised recommendations