Preparing for the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by the African Centre for Biodiversity, smallholder farmers, activists and government officials are crowded into the atrium of the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill and a drum is beating. A performer, Simo Mpapa Majola, dressed in blankets, is praying and singing and imploring the audience. He is telling the story of the women who work on a farm, who have been marginalised over and over, and yet are relentless in their search for “She-sus”, the She-God, and unswerving in their connection to the soil. Around the edges of the atrium are tables adorned with bowls and jars, hand-crafted wooden trays and woven baskets of seeds, resplendent in their diversity of colours, shapes and textures.
This paper, The Status Report on the SADC, COMESA and EAC harmonised seed trade regulations: Where does this leave the regions’ smallholder farmers?, researched and written by Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila of the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), provides a brief background and status update on efforts by regional economic communities to harmonise seed trade and marketing policy and legislation in East and Southern Africa. This paper focuses on the Technical Agreements on Harmonisation of Seed Regulations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC, 2008), the Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA, 2014), and the regional seed harmonisation programme of the East African Community (EAC).
This report is a result of research conducted in partnership with Tshintsha Amakhaya, Farmer Support Group, TCOE Zingisa and Surplus People Project. The report investigates the state of farmer-managed seed systems in rural South Africa.
Through 3 case studies in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the report highlights both the fragility and perseverance of smallholder farmers, who continue to maintain agricultural biodiversity and traditional knowledge, in the face of increasing pressure from all sides. Smallholder farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to make end meet in an agricultural sector dominated by large-scale commercial production and corporate value chains.