Tag Archive: Farmers’ Rights

Art, Seed Sovereignty and Activism: Weaving New Stories

January 2018 
By Claire Rousell

Preparing for the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by the African Centre for Biodiversity, smallholder farmers, activists and government officials are crowded into the atrium of the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill and a drum is beating. A performer, Simo Mpapa Majola, dressed in blankets, is praying and singing and imploring the audience. He is telling the story of the women who work on a farm, who have been marginalised over and over, and yet are relentless in their search for “She-sus”, the She-God, and unswerving in their connection to the soil.

Around the edges of the atrium are tables adorned with bowls and jars, hand-crafted wooden trays and woven baskets of seeds, resplendent in their diversity of colours, shapes and textures. Farmers and activists have brought the seeds from across the country to show the art of the soil – its wild excess that is still available to us – despite its depletion due to the demands of global capitalist supply chains that have destroyed agricultural biodiversity. The displays of seeds are arranged on beautiful shweshwe table cloths, interspersed with traditional tools for the preparation and serving of food: a woven beer filter,

Harmonised corporate seed laws in Africa: Where does this leave smallholder farmers?

By Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila*
December 2017

The expansion of the corporate seed market, embedded in the green revolution agenda in sub-Saharan Africa is progressing very fast. This expansion is going hand in hand with regional policies and regulations – in a process also known as seed harmonisation – that will enable facilitate trade across national borders. This has been the case in Southern and Eastern Africa in the last two and a half decades within three overlapping regions-SADC, COMESA and the EAC. These harmonised seed regulations focus solely on the formal seed sector, both neglecting and prohibiting the historical and current role played by farmer-managed seed systems, which indisputably provide the majority of seed used in food production across the continent. The harmonisation efforts attempt to shortcircuit lengthy and costly variety testing and release processes that take place at the national level. Proponents of the seed regulations argue that this will facilitate greater availability of seed and will increase smallholder farmers’ access to improved seed.

It is questionable though,  whether the formal seed systems which favour large-scale seed corporations will be able to meet African farmers’ requirement on access to good quality seed in sufficient time.

Smallholder farmers score victory at international ‘Seed Treaty’ meeting

By Gertrude Pswarayi-Jabson and Sabrina Masinjila*
November 2017

A landmark decision on the establishment of an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group to realize farmers’ rights was recently taken by the seventh session of the Governing Body (GB7) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA; also known as the ‘Seed Treaty’). There was stiff opposition from countries from the global North and the seed industry, who argued against that there was already a working group, under the Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture that was addressing farmers’ rights. However, this group has never seriously considered farmers’ rights since the Seed Treaty was adopted in 2004 more than 13 years ago.

At its meeting in Rwanda from 30 October to 4 November 2017, delegates from many of ITPGRFA’s 144 contracting member states and over 40 observers – including farmers’ organisations and civil society organisations – came together to discuss the theme: ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’. Included on the agenda were: Enhancement of the Functioning of the Multilateral System for Access and Benefit Sharing, Farmers’ Rights, Enhancement of the Funding

WEMA Project shrouded in secrecy: open letter to African governments to be accountable to farmers, civil society

Sign our Open Letter

 

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project promises to develop drought tolerance in maize for the benefit of small holder farmers, but is really a project designed to facilitate the spread of hybrid and genetically modified (GM) maize varieties on the continent.
WEMA involves five African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. It works through the National Agricultural Research (NAR) agencies of these countries, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
and Monsanto. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Secrecy
There is a great deal of secrecy that surrounds the WEMA project. The AATF (the so-called ‘not for profit’ organisation that coordinates WEMA) exercises extremely tight control over any information related to WEMA and has prevented researchers from speaking to WEMA partners, including the NARs. Information relating to performance and quality control is notably absent from the WEMA website. The NARs are public research institutions and are accountable to the public, especially in regard to the use of public goods under their control, such as germplasm, institutional resources and capacities. They are under constitutional and

ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA: MEDIA BRIEFING AFSA APPEALS TO ARIPO, AU AND UNECA FOR PROTECTION OF FARMERS’ RIGHTS & RIGHT TO FOOD

Addis Ababa

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a Pan African platform comprising civil society networks and farmer organisations working towards food sovereignty in Africa, has today lodged an urgent appeal to the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to urgently revise the draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol, recognise farmers? rights and facilitate the right to food. AFSA is requesting that such revision be based on a broader consultation process with farmer organisations and experts from outside of the plant breeders? rights sector.

African civil society organisations, many of them members of AFSA, made submissions to ARIPO on its draft Plant Variety Protection (PVP) law and policies in November 2012. AFSA has itself submitted comments on ARIPO?s Response to Civil Society: Draft Legal Framework for Plant Variety Protection, March 2014. In both submissions, several serious concerns were raised about the law, which later was titled ?the draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol?, being based on UPOV 1991 (the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants), a restrictive and inflexible legal regime focused solely on promoting and protecting the rights of commercial breeders that develop

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) submission to ARIPO, AU and UNECA for urgent intervention in draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol, in order to protect farmers? rights and the right to food.

This submission contains several grounds upon which AFSA is seeking urgent interventions by ARIPO, the AU and the UNECA to urgently revise the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol to protect farmers rights and the right to food.

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AFSA Makes Small Gains for Farmers’ Rights in Draft SADC PVP Protocol

AFSA members participated at a SADC Regional Workshop that took place 13-14 March 2014, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The aim of the workshop was to review the draft SADC PVP Protocol. After marathon, highly contentious and difficult discussions, AFSA members were able to persuade member states to amend key provisions in the draft SADC PVP Protocol dealing with “disclosure of origin” and “farmers’ rights”. While some space was opened through the participation of AFSA members at the very tail end of the workshop, the objections to the draft SADC PVP Protocol being based on UPOV 1991still remain. Indeed, the road ahead for smallholders and their seed systems continues to look extremely bleak. A radical shift is required at the political level away from a singular system that favours only one kind of plant breeding (industrial) and corporate seed systems that facilitate commercial growing and regional trade in improved and protected seed only and in which smallholders’ role is defined as that of passive consumers or growers in certification schemes (that produce improved/protected seed) to a system that embraces a multitude of actors and encourages a diversity of farming systems and seed.

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PROTOCOL FOR PROTECTION OF NEW

AFSA STRONGLY CONDEMNS SLEIGHT OF HAND MOVES BY ARIPO TO JOIN UPOV 1991, BYPASS NATIONAL LAWS AND OUTLAW FARMERS RIGHTS

PRESS RELEASE FROM ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA

Addis Ababa, Accra 3 April 2014

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)1 strongly condemns the move by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) to join UPOV 1991, which will effectively outlaw the centuries-old African farmers? practice of freely using, exchanging and selling seeds/propagating material. These practices underpin 90% of the agricultural system within the ARIPO region.2

AFSA has learnt that the Secretary General of ARIPO, on 6 March 2014, requested the UPOV Council to consider the Draft ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of Plant Varieties (?Draft Protocol?) for its conformity with the UPOV 1991 Convention3. If at the UPOV meeting to be held in Geneva on 11 April 2014, the UPOV Council decides that the Draft Protocol is indeed in conformity with UPOV 1991, and that ARIPO member states that ratify the Draft Protocol can join UPOV 1991, the implications will be far reaching.

According to Duke Tagoe from Food Sovereignty Ghana, a grassroots movement aggressively and successfully opposing Ghana?s Plant Variety Protection Bill, ?this will mean that our government in Ghana, who has been struggling to pass our Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill because of local resistance

AFSA?S COMMENTS ON ARIPO?s RESPONSES TO CIVIL SOCIETY: DRAFT LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION

At the 2013 November meeting of the Administrative Council and Council of Ministers of ARIPO countries held in Kampala, Uganda, several documents on the proposed legal framework for Plant Variety Protection were distributed. Also circulated was a Matrix1 containing ARIPO?s responses to a detailed submission by civil society organizations (CSO) dated 6th November 20122. In this AFSA Comments, we respond to this Matrix, which is evasive, baseless and shows that ARIPO?s assertions that the views and comments of civil society have been taken into account is simply false.

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ARIPO’S PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION LAW BASED ON UPOV 1991 CRIMINALISES FARMERS’ RIGHTS AND UNDERMINES SEED SYSTEMS IN AFRICA

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa[1] is gravely concerned about a draft law developed under the auspices of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), dealing with a harmonised regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights, titled “Draft Regional Policy and Legal Framework for Plant Variety Protection”. The ARIPO legal framework, if approved, will make it illegal for farmers to engage in their age-old practice of freely using, sharing and selling seeds/propagating material; a practice that underpins 90% of the smallholder agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

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