The deepening social, ecological and climate crises require urgent systematic restructuring of our food systems towards biodiverse, agroecological systems, which begins with seed. The African Centre for Biodiversity is excited to share with you groundwork to revive discussions on farmer seed systems in South Africa, in partnership with farmers and civil society. You can read our briefing paper, which comes out of a farmer-led dialogue hosted in the Eastern Cape, in English and in Xhosa.

Our agricultural and food system is heavily commercialised and concentrated, dominated by a handful of large corporations. This industrialised food system is responsible for large-scale soil depletion, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and extractive and pollutive practices, leading to nutritionally deficient foods, mono diets, and widespread hunger. This socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable system threatens the future of our food and environments.

Despite the severity of the inequalities exemplified in our food systems, the government is replicating this model for small-scale resource poor farmers, deepening the divides and dependencies further. What little resilience remains, is being further displaced and eroded.

Smallholder farmers remain the custodians of indigenous, traditional and diverse seed, despite the brutal historical, and ongoing, disruption of their livelihoods and practices. Discussions in the Eastern Cape remind us of the linkage between smallholder farmer production systems, traditional seeds, the land, and knowledge and practices.

We call for the urgent recognition and implementation of farmers’ rights and the support for farmer-managed seed systems, in legislation, programmes and public financing, to promote and support the use and availability of diverse farmers’ seed.

Today, World Food Day, let us celebrate the story of our food – the historical, generational journey of collaboration, through natural and farmer selection – that provides us with diverse, abundant food. But these food producing systems are under threat – neglected, devalued, and criminalised. Farmers and civil society in SA are demanding systemic change to our agricultural and food systems.

Phansi Hunger and Inequality, Phambili Health and Agroecology!