Protecting Africa's farmer-managed seed systems

Protecting Africa’s farmer-managed seed systems


About 90% of seeds sown in Africa come from ‘informal’ sources, local markets, or seeds saved by farmers, the majority of whom are women. It is these seeds that are providing 80% of Africa’s food. These seeds and the cultural systems and knowledge that underpin them are under threat from policies designed to privilege corporate seed systems while criminalising and vilifying farmer-managed seed systems.The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) has launched a continental seed policy report, which documents the policy shift towards the corporatisation of seeds on the continent, aided by the capture of the intellectual property rights of African seeds. Two policy processes are being advanced to facilitate this goal, often via harmosied regional processes:
1) the implementation of plant variety protection (PVP) regimes that are strongly skewed in favour of breeders’ rights over farmers’ rights to attract investment from the private seed industry, based on the International Union for Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991 Convention; and
2) tightening or development of seed trade laws that privilege ‘improved varieties’ on the market and severely restrict the trade and exchange of farmers’ varieties.
AFSA recommends a two-pronged approach to the problem: (i) building capacity and solidarity to resist those laws and policies that seek to replace or undermine farmer-managed seed systems, namely, plant breeders’ rights laws and seed trade laws, and (ii) strengthening farmer-managed seed systems. At the international level, there is a clear role to formally engage with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in Agriculture (ITPGRFA) which recognises farmers’ rights. Forty-three African countries are party to the ITPGRFA and therefore have a clear obligation to take steps to domesticate measures on farmers’ rights.
At the pan-African level farmers, support organisations, experts and a wider range of social movements and stakeholders must come together in a long-term consultative process to critically discuss the state of farmer-managed seed systemson the continent, elaborate a shared vision and the potential policy frameworks or mechanisms to effectively support and develop resilient farmer-managed seed systems.
– Third World Network        Details:


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