The inextricable link between agricultural biodiversity, agroecology, climate change, and biodiversity

In this briefing, Cultivating diversity for a just agroecological transition in Africa: the inextricable link between agricultural biodiversity, agroecology, climate change, and biodiversity, we highlight the pivotal role of agricultural biodiversity, in particular, crop diversity and its interrelatedness and dependence on farmer managed seed systems and the unfettered exercise of farmers’ rights, as integral to agroecology.

In this regard, agricultural biodiversity is indispensable for a just transition in food and agricultural systems globally generally, and on the African continent in particular. Agricultural biodiversity is an inextricable component to reform and adapt agricultural and food systems, in the context of the multiple intersecting social-ecological crises we face today. Agricultural diversity is being depleted at an alarming rate, as a result of multiple extractive activities, including especially industrial agriculture and the institutions and policies that uphold this system, including seed marketing and intellectual property laws. Commercial seed regimes severely restrict and, in some cases where countries have adopted International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991-based PVP laws, prohibit and criminalise farmers’ fundamental right to use, save, exchange, and sell farm-saved seeds.

To date the international community has failed to ensure the realisation of farmers’ rights, as articulated under Article 9 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and peasant farmers’ right to seed, articulated under Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This has also resulted in the absence of effective and appropriate regional and national policies and laws to guide the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity even in the face of plummeting agricultural biodiversity. The right to seed and farmers’ rights must be understood as part of a bundle of human rights, in particular for smallholders, peasant farmers, and food producers.

With attention now being shifted to developing monitoring frameworks and resource mobilisation for the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at the Convention on Biological Diversity (GBF), national-level civil society advocacy efforts, consultations, and participation are urgently needed to ensure agroecology, agricultural biodiversity, and the rights of farmers are fully integrated into revised National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans.

Crop diversity must thrive within agriculture and food systems, as well as the re-establishment of local autonomy and markets supporting the practices and systems that foster the ongoing evolution of this diversity as integral parts of a just transition in food and agriculture on the continent. The African Union and African States must move towards the recognition of the dynamism and importance of small-holder/ peasant seed systems in maintaining agricultural biodiversity, sustaining food supply and sovereignty, and responding to climate change.

Read the briefing here.
Farmer and non-governmental organisations planting together in Suurbraak, Western Cape