Status report on the SADC, COMESA and EAC harmonised seed trade regulations: Where does this leave the regions’ smallholder farmers?...

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).

The skewed nature of these harmonisation efforts, which focus solely on the formal seed sector, has continued to neglect and obstruct participation by African civil society groups in the development of such regulations. This has prevented meaningful involvement by civil society and smallholder farmers in decision-making processes on issues that directly affect their livelihoods, seed and food systems.

This paper offers a critique of these frameworks which firmly embed green revolution approaches in Africa, favoring large scale agribusiness as the solution to seed insecurity in Africa. This approach will have drastic implications for smallholder farmers and their seed systems, who provide the most sustainable supply of seed in the region.  Long-term solutions require comprehensive and appropriate national and regional seed policies that guarantee the rights of farmers, and particularly women farmers, supporting smallholder seed production and supply, and protect agricultural biodiversity.

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