New seed trade laws have been rapidly adopted or are in the process of being adopted at regional and national levels. They will have a significant impact on smallholder farmers as they exclude farmers’ varieties in their lists, with their focus on seed that is Distinct, Uniform and Stable (DUS). The aim of these laws is to expedite the movement of seed across regions. There is virtually no consultation with civil society taking place on these laws.
At the same time, on the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) front, SADC and ARIPO have already drafted legal frameworks, modeled on UPOV 1991 and will be signing these into existence later this year. ECOWAS and COMESA are likely to follow suit. This is leading to the development of legislation on plant breeders’ rights in several countries. These national laws will enable the entry of foreign breeders and threaten the rights of small-scale farmers.
AFSA’s goal over the next three years in this area will be: to build the capacity of AFSA members to influence regional and national seed legislation and policies towards protection of farmers’ rights in seed sovereignty. This will happen through and with the seed network that already exists. AFSA will help grow this into a continent-wide platform over the next three years.
One of the main tasks of this platform, working with AFSA, will be to create a common understanding amongst members on the implications of seed legislation and policy on small farming seed systems. To this end AFSA will support the design and implementation of a training strategy at the regional level. It is very important that AFSA members understand what is happening and so are able to support various civil society actions within the emerging and fast-changing context.