AFSA PRESS RELEASE 26 April 2018 : Hands Off African Seeds! No Intellectual Property on Life

Hands Off African Seeds! – No Intellectual Property on Life

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) today launches a continental seed policy report challenging the corporate capture of African farmers’ seeds and seed systems. Launched on World Intellectual Property Day, the report documents the policy shift towards corporatization of seeds on the continent, in direct contravention of international obligations to protect farmers’ rights and to conserve agricultural biodiversity. It shows how these dangerous policies are rapidly advancing and how farmers are resisting. The report entitled ‘Resisting corporate takeover of African seed systems and building farmer managed seed systems for food sovereignty in Africa’ maps the way forward for building a continental movement to Save African Seeds.

Zimbabwean farmer and La Via Campesina General Coordinator, Elizabeth Mpofu said, “Regional bodies like SADC and COMESA are developing rules that will increase the availability of commercial seeds, only benefiting corporations like Syngenta and Monsanto. Indigenous seeds are not recognized. We believe in controlling our land and seeds and producing the healthy food that we want, the way we want. Our response is to fight for food sovereignty against these transnational corporations.”

The race to capture the intellectual property rights of seeds is at the heart of the problem, with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in the driving seat. Civil society organizations around the world agree that there should be no intellectual property on life, yet the seed giants are using African regionalization policy processes to grab the IP rights to farmers’ seeds and planting material, and criminalize farmers traditional practices.

African agriculture policy is increasingly about ‘modernization’ through a massive increase in the use of chemical fertilizers and ‘improved’ seeds, switching the focus to staple crops and commodities tradable on global markets. In practice, this has led to a huge concentration on the development and marketing of hybrid maize seeds and artificial fertilizers.

The reality is that 90% of seeds sown in Africa come from ‘informal’ sources, local markets, or seeds saved by farmers or their neighbors – the majority of whom are women. It is these seeds that are providing 80% of Africa’s food. They are reliable, available and affordable, but the seed giants want them outlawed. These seeds and the cultural systems and knowledge that underpin them are under threat from policies designed to privilege corporate seed systems while criminalizing and vilifying farmer managed seed systems.

“The answer to seed sovereignty is not in the hands of corporates, but in the hands of smallholder farmers who feed the world,” said Peter Nzioka, Kaane Small Scale Farmers Association, Machakos, Kenya.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa calls on African nations to wake up to the dangers of these flawed policies; to scrap the externally-driven and damaging seed laws; and to recognize that the future of African food systems lies in supporting African food producers to provide sustainable African solutions.

The seed policy report ‘Resisting corporate takeover of African seed systems and building farmer managed seed systems for food sovereignty in Africa’ is available as a free download here. 

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For further information or interviews please contact:

Dr. Million Belay – AFSA Coordinator

Email: million.belay@afsafrica.org, afsa@afsafrica.org

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Corporate profit from South Africa’s smallholder farmers support programs

 

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Image credits: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

The African Centre for Biodiversity recently examined South Africa’s smallholder support programs. These funds are supposed to serve 300,000 smallholder farmers in the country and enhance their ability to feed themselves and their communities. Their report,“Input supply in South Africa’s smallholder farmer support programmes: A tale of neo-apartheid plans, dodgy dealings and corporate captureshows a lack of government transparency, pro-corporate policies, and the use of GM seeds in farmer support. The history of South Africa’s agriculture started with colonialism, with the majority of white farmers operating large-scale commercial farms and black farmers working small farms. Unfortunately, this pattern has mostly persisted into the current day. Although there are a number of farmer support programs including land access, extension and training, production support, input supply, mechanization, irrigation, financing, infrastructure and market support, the research focuses on agricultural inputs (specifically seed, fertilizer, and pesticides) since this is the area where corporations benefit the most. As producers of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides, corporations benefit from public subsidies that are meant to support small farmers. Monsanto and the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project are prominent beneficiaries here. Read more about South Africa’s farmer support programs on the African Centre for Biodiversity website here.

Corporate supply chains and hunger in Zambia

 

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Image credit: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

Last month, the African Centre for Biodiversity published a study “Green Innovation Centre in Zambia: Fighting Hunger through Corporate Supply Chains?” in collaboration with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. The study takes a look at the Green Innovation Center and its advancement of the Green Revolution.

The One World No Hunger (OWNH) program is a project of the German government, influencing Zambia’s agricultural development. The program’s Green Innovation Center (GIC), with a budget of 266.5 million euros, maintains a project in Zambia implemented by the German Gesellschaft für Zussamenarbeit (GIZ). The aim of the GIC is to provide support for smallholder farmers to integrate into commercial value chains operating at the regional, national, and global scale. GIC partners work with farmers to increase soya and groundnut production in the Eastern province and dairy in the South. They claim that training and connecting smallholder farmers to larger markets will increase their incomes and therefore solve hunger in the region. However, the majority of farmers cannot access these commercial markets, and will not see the benefits from this program. Even for participating farmers, they are negatively impacted by volatile global markets and will be forced to take lower prices due to the size and strength of transnational food corporations like Parmalat (a dairy partner in Zambia).

The Green Innovation Center is pushing for a Green Revolution in Zambia where agriculture is treated as a business and tool for economic development. This is yet another program that claims to solve the issue of hunger by privileging a small portion of farmers to get connected to commercial value chains while ignoring decentralized informal markets. In Zambia, 70% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods or food access and 80% of the market is informal. Clearly, the solution to hunger will not come from connecting a select few into corporate supply chains. Read more about the work of the Green Innovation Center on the African Centre for Biodiversity website here.

Farming with Influence: South Africa Agroecology Exchange Article Series

By Shalon Jones, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives

Sixth in the South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange Article Series

In October 2017, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a US-South Africa Agroecology Exchange, representing the Mississippi Association of Southern Cooperatives alongside Mr. Ben Burkett.  With much excitement and anticipation, many thoughts ran across my mind. Although this was a journey to gain understanding, knowledge, and bring awareness, this experience was soon to turn into a revelation.

I was always a person who loved embarking on opportunities and enthusiastically willing to learn new things. My most recent work allowed me to engage with many individuals and families about healthy eating tips and how to break unhealthy eating habits growing up. In the province of Limpopo, after visiting the Maphata Herbs Project, organized by a member of the Mopani Farmers Association named Olga, I began to see the remedy was literally at home. I toured a beautiful garden filled with homegrown herbs and vegetables. All created for prevention and healing. While witnessing all the great things in Olga’s own yard, I began to think about my uncle, whose life ended due to prostate cancer illness.  Right in the midst of walking through the yard there was this thought: “If I had this knowledge, could we have prevented or helped him be with us longer?” Every part of the tour was filled with enthusiasm and love. Thinking about my work, I think about how I’ve been giving the communities I serve and even myself an injustice. Not only do we need to support local farmers but learn how to grow for ourselves. This will not only help us, but everyone connected to us.

Another impactful moment was with another female farmer, Ms. Rikhotso Tintswalo Mallina, a community resident and Mopani Farmers Association member that organically grows over 20 different fruits and vegetables. In spite of her lack of resources, Ms. Rikhotso has found ways to keep her garden flourishing with a variety of produce that not only feeds her family but the community as well.

Both of these farmers’ undeniable influence and compassion is appreciated throughout their villages and now has crossed over to the USA. While there were many more moments worth telling, both experiences have caused me to not use my current apartment living as an excuse not to plant.  Once arriving back in Louisiana, I planted broccoli, lettuce, and rosemary.

Now when I walk out my door I will think about who inspired me!  It was all because of our South African comrades inspiring us to continue to fight for what’s best! Ms. Rithotso stated, “when I met the MFA, I began to understand that it was possible.” I’m glad to say “when I met my fellow comrades, I understand that it really is possible.”

With much gratitude,

Shalon Jones

Delegates from the 2017 South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange are authoring a series of articles reflecting on different aspects of the Exchange. In the series, they share how their trip to South Africa shaped new ideas, tactics, connections, and other means of continued engagement in the global Food Sovereignty movement, and how they’re bringing these insights to their local organizing. Read the first article in the series by Dean Jackson here, the second article by Edgar Franks here, the third article by Alsie Parks here, the fourth article by Justina Ramirez here, and the fifth article by Kathia Ramirez here.

Support an end to the World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture”

“The revelations that led to this week’s resignation of World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer point to flawed methodology and political manipulation in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. Romer admitted that the Doing Business rankings may have been manipulated to make Chile’s economic environment look worse under the sitting socialist president Michelle Bachelet.

These revelations add to a long list of concerns that have been raised by civil society in recent years. The Our Land Our Business campaign was launched in 2014 to demand the end of the Bank’s Doing Business rankings. Over 280 organizations, including NGOs, unions, farmers, and consumer groups from over 80 countries have joined this call so far.”

The campaign “Our Land, Our Business” launched by the Oakland Institute in 2014, draws attention to the World Bank’s rating system that rewards the deregulation of business laws around the world. Last year, CAGJ published a blog post detailing how the World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” indicators affect the lives of smallholders in Africa.
Read more on the Oakland Institute’s campaign to end the World Bank’s business rating systems here.

Art and Activism at the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration

 

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Image credit: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

A new blog, published by Claire Rousell with the African Centre for Biodiversity reflects on the role of art in activism. During the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by ACB at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg in December 2017, performers shared their stories of farming and food sovereignty through dance and music. The reflections in the blog remind us that while scientific evidence can be persuasive, art has the ability to reach people on a deeper, more intrinsic level. Read the blog here

Status report from the African Centre for Biodiversity asesses impact of harmonized seed regulations on small farmers

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A new status report, researched and written by Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila of the African Centre for Biodiversity, reviews the seed harmonization efforts of the South African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). Seed harmonization efforts focus on the regulation of seed laws across Eastern and Southern Africa to facilitate trade through formal markets. Seed harmonization focuses on three areas: variety testing, registration and release, seed certification and phytosanitary measures. All of these procedures present significant financial barriers to small farmers to enter these formal markets. Historically, smallholder farmers have used farmer managed seed systems (FMSS) to access and trade local varieties. These systems still remain vital today, as roughly 90% of seeds are sourced from informal systems, and 60% come from local markets. It’s clear that these seed harmonization efforts are another extension of Green Revolution ideology, meant to facilitate the trade of corporate seeds and benefit large agribusiness while ignoring the importance of farmer managed seed systems.
Read and download the full report from the African Center for Biodiversity here: https://acbio.org.za/status-report-sadc-comesa-eac-harmonised-seed-trade-regulations-leave-regions-smallholder-farmers/?utm_source=phplist71&utm_medium=email&utm_content=HTML&utm_campaign=Status+report+on+the+SADC%2C+COMESA+and+EAC+harmonised+seed+trade+regulations%3A+Where+does+this+leave+the+regions%E2%80%99+smallholder+farmers%3F