African Civil Society and farmer representatives blocked from ARIPO deliberations on regional seed (PVP) law

AGRA Watch partners the African Centre for Biodiversity and the PELUM Association in collaboration with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa issued a joint press release today. Read the full text below.

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African Civil Society and farmer representatives blocked from ARIPO deliberations on regional seed (PVP) law

29 November 2016

The authoritarian nature of the African Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) Secretariat and its undemocratic processes are scandalous and unacceptable. Locking African farmer representatives and civil society out in order to allow unfettered draconian regional law making is deeply disturbing. What is at play here is entrenching an agricultural future for smallholder farmers in the 19 ARIPO countries that will ensure that profits accrue mainly to the corporate sector and a tiny group of elite players that can engage in the commercial agriculture value chain, while pushing the already marginalised majority of smallholder farmers further into hunger, poverty and dispossession.

ARIPO will host an Administrative Council meeting 5–8 December 2016 in Harare, Zimbabwe for its 19 ARIPO Member States, to adopt deeply troubling draft Regulations to implement a highly contested and controversial regional law on seeds – the Arusha Protocol on Protection of New Varieties of Plants (PVP). ARIPO has refused point blank to allow any African farmer representative or civil society to attend the December meeting on the spurious and frivolous grounds that ARIPO has no cooperation agreement with such civil society. Yet ARIPO has in the past, allowed a small handful of people representing smallholder farmers and from African civil society to attend Administrative Council meetings.

Civil society groups have consistently and constructively engaged with the drafting of the Arusha Protocol and several versions of the draft Regulations, and have submitted sets of substantive comments. In these comments we have raised serious concerns. We continue to have these concerns and also in relation to the most recent Draft Regulations that are up for decision making at the December meeting.

These include the impingement of national sovereignty; the failure to safeguard Farmers’ Rights and farmer seed systems; the failure to prevent bio-piracy and undermining the implementation of international Treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) as well as various international instruments on human rights.

The ARIPO Secretariat is hell bent on excluding those that represent the interests of smallholder farmers from key meetings where regional laws are being adopted, yet opening the doors to foreign interests. This has already happened in July 2015, when farmer representatives and African CSOs were deliberately shut out of the Diplomatic Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania when the Protocol itself was adopted.

We call upon all Member States of ARIPO to ensure open, transparent and democratic regional law making. Further we impress upon Member States to ensure that smallholder farmers have the rights to continue to access and use all seed freely without any impediments, including protected varieties, through saving, exchanging, and selling on the local markets in Africa. Such practices are the backbone of farming systems in the ARIPO region and support livelihoods, provide food, sustenance and nutrition for many millions of people on the continent.

Member States must ensure that mechanisms are put in place to operationalise their right to object to the plant breeders’ rights from being applicable and enforceable in their territories, as allowed by Article 4(1) of the Protocol, and to ensure that appropriate safeguards to prevent bio-piracy are put in place to prevent the exploitation of farmers and disallow breeders from hiding acts of bio-piracy behind confidentiality rules.

ENDS//

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Report-back on 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony and Encounter: Our Seeds of International Solidarity

Last week, representatives of over 20 organizations gathered in Seattle and Bellingham for several days of dialogue, action, and celebration of the growing food sovereignty movement.

Photo Credit: Colette Cosner
Representatives of groups across the US and Africa together for the Food Sovereignty Prize Encounter. Photo Credit: Colette Cosner

 

Last week, representatives of over 20 organizations gathered in Seattle and Bellingham for several days of dialogue, action, and celebration of the growing food sovereignty movement. The Encounter, co-hosted by Community Alliance for Global Justice and Community to Community Development, was a national gathering of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA). On Saturday, we honored Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and Farmworkers Association of Floridaas recipients of the 8th Annual Food Sovereignty Prize, awarded by the USFSA.

As an alternative to the World Food Prize awarded the same weekend in Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes that transformation of our food system comes from the grassroots, frontlines, and communities building power – not corporate, biotech, and Big Ag industries focused on profit over people and the planet. Coming together for the Prize and events was an opportunity to reflect on strengthening our organizing and advocacy for agroecology, food as a human right, dignity for workers across the food chain, and community-led solutions to hunger and climate change

 

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Photo Credit: Project Feed the Hood

Roundtable Meetings

With banners and signs reflecting messages of the movement in the center of a circle, folks gathered Wednesday night and Thursday at the WA State Labor Council to discuss the current political moment of the USFSA and the new methodology being proposed for building up grassroots leadership and regional structure in the Alliance.

Continue reading “Report-back on 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony and Encounter: Our Seeds of International Solidarity”

Food Sovereignty Prize Winner: Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa is an alliance of civil society and farmer organizations across Africa dedicated to promoting a strong, united voice of African-driven solutions of food sovereignty, agroecology, and social justice.

AFSA members at a Strategic Planning Meeting in July 2014

 By Johanna Lundahl, AGRA Watch Intern

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) works to influence policy in Africa around community rights, family farming, promotion of traditional knowledge, the environment and natural resource management. This Saturday, October 15th, AFSA, along with the US-based Farmworkers Association of Florida, will be awarded the 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. AFSA will be honored for its work in building a strong movement of people directly impacted by expanding corporate agriculture, including land and water grabs, and advancing food production systems controlled by food producers, making nutritious food produced in harmony with planet available to everyone.

Bernard Guri, Chairperson of AFSA, who will accept the Food Sovereignty Prize on its behalf, explains in a press release  that traditional, more stable, and environmentally-friendly African agriculture is under attack from foreign corporations’ business interests: “Africa has a myriad of ways to feed her people and to keep her environment safe. However, a few international corporations from the global North have generated approaches strictly for their own profit by misleading our leaders and our people, stealing our seeds and culture, and destroying our environment.” Continue reading “Food Sovereignty Prize Winner: Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa”

Food And Hunger: Which Prize Takes The Prize?

CAGJ and Community to Community are co-hosting the 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize, working closely with US Food Sovereignty Alliance members across the country, including WhyHunger, whose co-founder authored this piece on the fundamental differences between the World Food Prize, and the Food Sovereignty Prize.

Below is an excerpt from Bill Ayres’ article. It was originally published on The Huffington Post.
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Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Food And Hunger: Which Prize Takes The Prize?

By Bill Ayres, WhyHunger Co-founder and Ambassador

“Doctor Norman Borlaug the Father of the Green Revolution founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to promote the work of scientists and agricultural organizations that promote the production of food through technology. Over the years the prize has been given to dozens of top agricultural scientists and organizations which have pioneered biotechnological solutions for increasing food production, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Yet the solutions and science honored at these ceremonies aren’t solving the hunger problem in our world.

The Food Sovereignty Prize begun in 2009 to champion social movements, activists and community-based organizations around the world working to ensure that all people have access to fresh, nutritious food produced in harmony with the planet. Food Sovereignty means that people should be able to grow, eat and sell their own food in the manner they choose. Members believe that increased dependence on technology, as heralded in the World Food Prize honorees, in the form of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seeds is not the answer to hunger and food production. Control of the food system by large corporations is not the way to protect the environment and decrease hunger and poverty. Access to land, clean water, native seeds and fair markets as well as protection from land grabs and state-sponsored violence are what small farmers need. Millions of small farmers have embraced agroecology, a method of growing food sustainably that combines the best of traditional agriculture with many of the best new agricultural breakthroughs that are affordable and safe for the environment, the food and the farmers. It is a way of life in which whole communities come together to share resources and learn from one another.”

Read the entire article on The Huffington Post.

Cover Crops: A Simple Solution to Degrading Soil Quality

Photo Credit: Food First

Roland Bunch, a researcher and activist for Food First, published a report focused on fact that in Sub-Saharan Africa smallholder farmer’s lands have gotten smaller on average due to population increase and growing amounts of wasteland. This decrease in the size of farms has resulted in the decline of the practice of letting a large portion of such land lie fallow for years at a time, while farmers are able to feed themselves and their families with the rest of it. Without letting their lands have a rest, Bunch says, the soil quality which has held steady for some 3000 years is now declining from overuse. 

In his report, Green Manure Crops in Africa: A Report from the Field, Bunch detailed his agroecological approach to educating smallholder farmers about the use of green manure, also known as cover crops(GM/CC), which can be grown in tandem with the farmer’s regular crops. Bunch found that the right green manure/cover crop for the specific region can return nutrients to the soil while growing usable foods for local communities.
Bunch has been investigating the use of planting crops that can fertilize the soil since the early eighties. Working with an independent group of agronomists from Brazil, he has led an effort to put these methods on the agendas of prominent development agencies. He was also very important to the introduction of the campesino a campesino(farmer to farmer) movement in Central and Southern America; cover crops were a central part of that movement.

EU Parliament Agrees With a Report that’s Highly Critical of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

 

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March 2014, World Development Movement(WDM) campaigners dressed as business people from Monsanto, Diageo, SABMiller and Unilever delivered a cake to the Department For International Development to “thank” the UK government for its support in allowing them to carve up Africa.

In early June the EU Parliament voted to accept a report put out by it’s development committee, in which The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative of the Obama administration and the G-8, including the Gates Foundation, was heavily criticized for being ineffective as a means for improving world development.

In their article, EU parliament slams aid scheme that uses big agribusiness to ‘feed Africa’, Global Justice Now applauded the decision, as does AGRA Watch, agreeing that the New Alliance is an initiative meant to benefit big agribusiness instead of helping small-scale farmers, and vulnerable communities. It’s past time that world governments are held responsible for the funding of such initiatives that serve their own business interests over those of farmers and local communities.

Continue reading “EU Parliament Agrees With a Report that’s Highly Critical of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition”

Donors and governments sidelining sustainable farming methods in the new ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa, Christian Aid warns in new report.

HEALTHY HARVESTS: The benefits of sustainable agriculture in Africa and Asia
A Christian Aid report, September 2011

Read the whole report here: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/Healthy-Harvests-Report.pdf

Executive Summary:

This report argues that smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia can improve agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods by adopting sustainable approaches that utilize resource-conserving technologies and that draw upon their own knowledge.

 

Many thousands of communities in countries such as India, Cambodia, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Kenya are already benefiting from sustainable farming but they need more support and, above all, these approaches need to be scaled up.

 

 

 

Seventy per cent of the world’s nearly 1 billion hungry people are smallholder farmers and the rural landless. Marginalised smallholder farmers have long been locked in a cycle of low productivity, lack of assets and services and weak market power. In addition, they face a number of newer challenges. Many crop and livestock producers are deeply vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Land degradation and groundwater depletion are increasingly posing a threat to food security and the livelihoods of rural people. Meanwhile, scope to expand agricultural production into new lands is increasingly limited, and competition for existing farmland is increasing too: from foreign investors, industry and urban developers. Rising food prices since the onset of the global food crisis of 2007 to 2008 have posed a further challenge to smallholder farmers who tend to be net food buyers and who also have to meet the costs of rising fertiliser prices.

This report asks the question: what kind of agriculture can address poverty and hunger in a world in which the climate is changing, food demand is growing and land, soil and water resources are increasingly under pressure; and in a way that preserves the natural resource base for future generations?

 

In recognition of the challenges facing agriculture, donors and governments have in recent years made welcome new political and financial commitments to smallholder farming, especially in Africa. However, as this report outlines, the solutions for Africa advocated by donors, governments and the initiatives of private foundations have tended to centre around the promotion of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are costly for farmers and very often resourcedepleting. This drive for a new ‘Green Revolution’ for Africa has tended to sideline more sustainable, farmer led approaches. For example, recent input-subsidy programmes in Africa have brought significant short-term benefits in certain cases, but they are looking increasingly unsustainable and risk sidelining investment in greener alternatives. And our research identifies concerns that the agro-dealer networks funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are selling ever more quantities of agro-chemicals to farmers, thus marginalising the space for alternative approaches that are more sustainable.

The experience of Asia’s Green Revolution holds some very important lessons for policy-makers globally. There is no denying its achievement in lifting yields and reducing hunger, especially from the 1960s to 1980s. But this process of change began to stall in the 1990s and this is posing major challenges for Asian governments today. One cause is the heavy burden on the natural resource base of the widely-adopted, intensive monocropping system. Soil degradation has meant farmers have had to increase the quantity of fertiliser used in order to maintain their yields. This has in turn affected their profit margins and is one factor behind increasing levels of farmer debt. There have been a range of other serious consequences of the Asian Green Revolution (for example, the loss of on-farm biodiversity, social inequalities, and the dangerous effects of pesticides on the health of farmworkers), which should give governments more than a pause for thought.

We define sustainable agriculture as a way of producing food that balances the economic, social and environmental aspects of farming.

It is an approach that minimizes or avoids chemical inputs, uses resource-conserving technologies and materials available on the farm, and draws and builds upon the capacity of farmers and community organisations. These principles are already being successfully adopted by farming communities in Asia and Africa, including with the support of Christian Aid partners.

A growing body of evidence – both academic and data and analysis available from development programmes – demonstrates that such sustainable approaches can be highly effective in boosting production, incomes and food security; supporting soil and water conservation, on-farm biodiversity and crop health; improving resilience to natural disasters and climate change; lowering greenhouse gas emissions; and empowering communities. For example, in

Cambodia, the adoption of new growing techniques for rice, which minimise the use of agro-chemicals and water (known as the ‘system of rice intensification’) has helped increase yields for farmers from an average of 2.5 tonnes per hectare to 3.7 tonnes per hectare. In Zimbabwe, Christian Aid partners ZimPro and the Dabane Trust have assisted over 3,000 households to adopt conservation agriculture. This enabled farmers to increase significantly their yields of sorghum, millet and maize – helping to improve household food security. And in other countries, farmers have been able to cut back on pesticide use by adopting natural methods of tackling pests. This has delivered both income and health benefits.

However, these approaches remain severely under-supported. To scale them up governments and donors need to significantly re-balance their current focus on quick-fix, external input intensive ‘solutions’, towards a much greater support for sustainable, agro-ecological approaches. This should come through a re-balancing of government subsidies towards resource-conserving technologies and by building these approaches into revived public research and extension programmes that place smallholder farmers, their associations and networks at the centre of decisionmaking. National seed laws should primarily focus on promoting farmers’ rights and access to seeds of their own choosing, be they modern or local seed varieties. They should also enshrine the right of farmers to freely breed, conserve and exchange traditional varieties. Governments will also need to increase poor people’s access to land and smallholders’ security of tenure – both are important pre-requisites for rural food security and the adoption of sustainable agriculture. Governments need to encourage and harness the potential of the private sector to play a role in supporting sustainable farming, while also putting in place appropriate regulations, for example to ensure that private agro-dealers do not replace government extension service as a source of advice on inputs for farmers.

This must also be accompanied by initiatives that enable the creation of, and access to, markets that return fair prices for small-scale producers, and global trade policies that safeguard the position of domestic producers in national food systems.