Regional and continental integration under the auspices of the African Continental Seed Harmonisation (ACSH) initiative and the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACfTA)

The African Union Commission (AUC)’s African Seed and Biotechnology Programme is undertaking a process developing Continental Guidelines for the Harmonisation of Seed Regulatory Frameworks in Africa. The ACB was able to access an Inception Report titled, Development of Continental Guidelines for the Harmonisation of Seed Regulatory Frameworks in Africa (Reference: AUC/DREA/C/036), available only in English. We have since analysed and produced a critique, which has been supported by several African civil society organisations, representing smallholder farmers across Southern and Eastern Africa. These comments can be found here.

These Guidelines will set out the process for common continental-wide standards and procedures, under an African Continental Seed Harmonisation Framework, for adoption by member states who have signed onto the African Continental Free Trade Areas Agreement (AfCFTA).

Despite over 90% of seed on the continent being sourced through farmer managed seed systems (FMSS), including local markets, which therefore provide the base for food and nutritional security to the African population, this process focuses exclusively on private sector growth, seed certification, and restrictive quality and marketing controls standards.

We maintain that this approach and orientation of seed laws on the continent is draconian, and undermines Farmers’ Rights. The recognition of and support to FMSS and Farmers’ Rights are central and fundamental to any seed policy for the continent, particularly in the context of multiple shocks, changing climate, rapid urbanisation, agricultural extraction and widespread ecological degradation.