The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) co-hosted two farmer exchanges in South Africa in 2019 – in Limpopo and Eastern Cape. The Limpopo meeting and field visit brought together smallholder farmers from Dzomo La Mupo and Mopani Farmers Association (MFA), and officials form Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (LDARD).

Recognising that industrial agriculture is unsustainable, agroecological production systems and seed diversity provide an alternative that works with nature (rather than against it) and that values human wellbeing and solidarity.

However, a lack of support has resulted in the erosion of farmer-managed seed systems and smallholder agricultural systems, though some pockets of farmer seed activities still exist. To meet South Africa’s future food and livelihood needs, farmer-managed seed systems need to be recognised, supported and protected.

This meeting provided an opportunity to exchange on issues facing smallholder farmers and begin to chart a way forward to: bring these challenges to light in policy spaces, call for the support of agroecological production at the smallholder level, and advocate for the recognition and support for farmer managed seed systems.

“Government is promoting 96% of farmers to plant this maize and chemicals from kooperasie. Our indigenous maize takes seven months, and during that time we harvest greens in the same field and so we have food security. But with this seed from government it takes three months and then it’s attacked by pests and we have to put chemicals.” Mphatheleni Makaulule, Dzomo La Mupo, Venda

“Remember, when we go to these farmers, they are being made to believe that their own seed is inferior, or their own farming system is not good enough. So, we need to work on what they are doing, it is good for the environment, for their socioeconomic status, so on. And on the other side, as government, national as well, [it] is to create an environment where these systems are promoted.” Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (LDARD) official

“We want people to eat quality food– food with life – not food that destroys life. We want this in abundance so that we can be helping other farmers and other individuals who could come and buy.” Smallholder farmer, MFA

Click here for the briefing from the meeting:

To read the briefing that came out of a second meeting in Limpopo, in January 2020, with translations into Sepedi, Tsonga and Venda, please click here.

For information on the Eastern Cape farmer exchange, please click here.