Resilient seed systems and agroecology
Most of the food consumed in Africa is produced locally and, as various researches show, the majority of farmers who provide this food use locally adapted seeds from “informal” farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS). Most seeds come from farmers’ own stocks of saved seed, from neighbours, and from local markets. These seed systems are the basis of agricultural production across Africa, yet FMSS receive little or no support from African governments. FMSS are dismissed by policy makers as out-dated practices, to be replaced by the so-called ‘formal’ seed system which promotes hybrid and GMO seeds supplied by commercial seed companies, agro-dealers and agribusinesses.
Farmers’ control over their seeds is under threat from changes to national and regional legislation through the harmonization of seed laws and the introduction of new plant breeders’ rights protection for commercial breeders. These changes are driven by the current wave of investment in African agriculture by global corporations in input supply (seed and agrochemicals), keen to promote monocultures of ‘improved’ seeds under monopoly control. Supported by multi-country initiatives such as G7 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), these multinationals are setting the terms, with favourable seed laws, access to land, free trade and intellectual property rights as the preconditions for their investment.
Regulatory systems such as the UPOV 91 compliant ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants demonstrate a clear bias towards increasing the use of plant varieties produced by agribusinesses while restricting the time-honoured and reliable practices of African farmers to freely save, use, share and sell their seeds. The priority is to capacitate members of AFSA to advocate for FMSS at the regional bodies including the AU and the RECs.
AFSA’s Resilient Seed Systems & Agroecology Working Group has identified the need to strengthen and make the case for FMSS as the dominant seed system in Africa, and to develop and drive policy change to provide a supportive environment for this to happen.
In this strategic period, the goal of AFSA’s work on Seed is to build a continental platform that supports Farmer Managed Seed Systems, and influences seed policy and legislation to support FMSS.
- To change the prevailing narrative to one that recognizes Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) as the fundamental basis of Africa’s food system.
- To influence African seed legislation to protect farmers’ rights to share exchange and sell seeds, and to empower farmer managed seed systems.
- To raise public awareness on farmers’ seed sovereignty and the value of farmers’ varieties including for nutrition and health.
- A clear and persuasive expression of the counter-narrative in place, supported by a compelling evidence-based case.
- Strong national and regional seed advocacy platforms actively engaging with policymakers.
- Increased public and consumer support for farmers’ seed rights.
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