This document represents the submission by more than 80 civil society organisations from the SADC region, other parts of Africa and around the world to the SADC Secretariat. These groups representing millions of farmers have condemned the SADC daft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants as spelling disaster for small farmers and food security in the region. They are calling for the rejection of the Protocol and urgent consultations with farmers, farmer movements and civil society before any further work is undertaken.
African farm analysts demand answers from UK over DfID funding Is the UK setting up a poverty trap for African farmers?
The Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB), supported by Food & Water Europe and the Gaia Foundation, today wrote to UK Ministers for International Development, Business and Environment asking for evidence for the basis of UK overseas aid policy.*
ACB recently published a searing critique of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (known as AGRA, supported by agribusiness multinationals and the Gates Foundation). The study finds the scheme is ultimately not about developing lasting solutions to hunger, but imposing a cash economy on African agriculture that will inevitably result in farmers becoming dependent on the multinational corporations profiting from the hardship that will follow.
AGRA effectively seeks to institutionalise biopiracy by accessing publicly available genetic resources, patenting or imposing other intellectual property rights on the resulting seeds, and then using these industrial monoculture crops to channel African farmers into focusing on earning enough export cash to buy the privatised seed. The AGRA model uses free inputs to develop monopoly control over outputs and expects farmers to pay for seeds they previously shared and traded, and played a major part in developing over thousands of years.
AGRA?s model creates the foundation for the expansion of biotechnology and synthetic agricultural inputs,
The core of the paper is focused on the pressures being exerted on African governments to adopt the 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV), particularly through regional harmonisation of plant variety protection (PVP) policies and laws. We also discuss the adverse impacts PVP laws will have on the exercise of farmers? rights in Africa, and concomitantly, on agricultural biodiversity, food security, livelihoods, knowledge systems and culture.
“Seeds are the very basis of human society and have been for all of human history. Until very recently, farming and seed breeding were undertaken by farmers on their own land, season after season. However, we are now witnessing the separation of these two interdependent activities, with seed breeding increasingly being privatised and farmers becoming increasingly dependent on seed varieties made available to them at the discretion of seed companies. This process of separation began in Europe and North America at the turn of the nineteenth century, and continues today in developing countries and developed countries alike.”
During October/November 2012, a number of African groups from civil society in Africa supported a submission to ARIPO on its draft policy and legal framework for PVP. In such submission, the groups pointed out that draft legal framework was not written with the interests of sub-Saharan African states in mind, particularly ARIPO member states. This is because there is no attempt to develop a sui generis system suitable to the African context. It instead blindly copies and expands on UPOV 1991.
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA): laying the groundwork for the commercialisation of African agriculture
We consider AGRA’s broad philosophy and structure, focusing on AGRA’s own views or those of its consultants, before turning to a more detailed consideration of its specific work in the Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) and, in slightly less detail, its Soil Health Programme (SHP). These programmes are inseparable because seed and soil fertility technologies are interlinked. Seed and fertiliser are the fundamental technological interventions on which AGRA’s strategies hang. The paper concludes with thoughts for ways for the broad agroecological and food and seed sovereignty movements to respond to AGRA.
Our conclusions include the following: AGRA is undoubtedly laying the groundwork for the commercialisation of African agriculture and its selective integration into global circuits of accumulation. Benefits will be unevenly spread and we should expect accelerated divergences in farmer interests. This will lead to greater class differentiation and a deepening commodification of African agriculture (subordinating agricultural products to the imperatives of exchange for the realisation of surplus value, rather than as use values in their own right).
The shadow of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and other seed and agrichemical multinationals, and equity funds lie just behind the scenes of AGRA’s show. Building new markets and market infrastructure for
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New data from ICRISAT and the US Department of Agriculture and a comparison of genebank records indicates that half of more of ICRISAT’s sorghum genebank collection is also being distributed outside of the Multilateral System. This yawning gap creates an economic incentive for the Multilateral System and its benefit sharing requirements to be avoided.
USDA’s sorghum germplasm customers, who are primarily corporate and commercially oriented academic breeders, are taking advantage of this perverse incentive. In the past six years, they have ordered four times more ICRISAT genebank seeds from USDA than from ICRISAT itself. Globally, it is likely that more distributions of Multilateral System sorghum take place without an SMTA than occur with one.
Recipients of large USDA distributions of sorghum are not obligated to share benefits and do not comply with the restrictions of the SMTA on patenting parts of the material. Under present circumstances, the promise of the Multilateral System cannot be fulfilled for sorghum, a crop of global food security importance, particularly in Africa. Further, even if the US ratifies the ITPGRFA, a vexing problem has been created by USDA’s recent massive distributions of Multilateral System sorghum germplasm to institutions potentially not bound by the Treaty’s
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has focused several recent reports on new international commercial interest and patent claims on the African native crop sorghum. This includes the issues raised by the proposed widespread use of sorghum for the production of agrofuels.
This report extends ACB‘s examination of new international commercial interest in African native crops, by including a focus on pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and related African native grass species in the Pennisetum genus.i
Globally, pearl millet is less widely sown than sorghum, yet it is a key food and feed crop in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa and Asia (particularly India). Pearl millet occupies smaller but significant markets in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, where it is mainly grown for animal feed and forage. In the US, for example, pearl millet is grown on about 600,000 hectares each year. To a lesser extent, it is also grown outside Africa for human food.
Other African pennisetums, such as Napiergrass, are also economically important outside Africa. They are sold in the lucrative landscape plant markets, as lawn grasses, and as feed and forage for the bird and exotic game hunting industries.1 In the
This paper looks at the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project within the context of the race by massive agribusiness corporations to bring climate change related crops to the market. The first part of the paper explains the WEMA project within this context, outlining the players and the stakes involved. It looks at who stands to benefit from the project and what the African countries involved are asked to sacrifice. The second part of the paper looks at Monsanto‘s strategic positioning within this climate change race and how it intends to use WEMA as leverage to bring its controversial crops to a wider global market, simultaneously opening up key markets in Africa for its GM crops. Finally, we outline our concerns and make recommendations with regard to appropriate agricultural systems in Africa.