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Making knowledge work for policy: DeSIRA-LIFT conducts a review of seed laws in Africa

Photo: 2015 CIAT / Georgina Smith

Shifting towards more sustainable food systems requires an enabling international policy environment based on effective policy dialogue. With this premise in mind, DeSIRA-LIFT, a service facility of the DeSIRA Initiative, aims to underpin policy dialogue between the African Union (AU) and the European Commission with evidence and actionable knowledge on trends related to food systems transformation.


DeSIRA-LIFT is currently producing a report reviewing the status of seed laws, regulations, and treaties on the African continent. The publication, which is the first of a series of research outputs intended for the EC’s Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA), is set to be published in the third quarter of 2022 at


The publication responds to the need to decipher the complexity and controversial nature of the policy shifts currently affecting seed laws in Africa. These laws have been under increasing scrutiny since 2021, when the AU embarked on a mission to set up continent-wide standards and procedures as part of a new African Continental Seed Harmonisation initiative for adoption by member states who signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).


Civil society actors have expressed concerns that new seed regulations and harmonisation guidelines threaten farmers’ rights to save, reuse, exchange, and sell seed through informal seed systems. Farmer-managed seed systems are the source of 90% of seed on the continent. Weakening these will likely result in greater vulnerability of crops to climate crises, food and nutrition insecurity, and forced rural-to-urban migration.


In his recent report Seeds, right to life and farmers’ rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, recommended that governments recognise, support, and reward smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples as stewards of seed systems for all of humankind. Thus, their national laws should recognise farmers’ rights as human rights and establish farmers’ rights as the cornerstone of their national seed system.


In light of these concerns, DeSIRA-LIFT’s review will focus on the impact these laws, regulations, and treaties are likely to have on the rights of smallholder farmers in Africa to use, breed, save, and exchange seed, and, by extension, on the ability to promote agro-ecological solutions across the continent. It will map out a way forward for promoting smallholder participation in the development of international seed systems guidelines with a view to making the relevant regulatory framework more inclusive and sustainable.


Follow the #DeSIRALIFT hashtag and visit this website for updates about the publication.


Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation 

P.O. Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen
the Netherlands


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