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Seed systems in Africa

Are breeders’ rights and farmers’ rights to seed in conflict or complementary in African countries? In its publication Current developments in seed laws harmonisation in Africa, launched in late 2022, DeSIRA-LIFT provides key elements to answer this question. The report, written by Peter Munyi, reviews the international treaties and policy instruments that determine the plant breeders’ rights and farmers’ rights to seed.

 

The findings show that current seed policies need to (and can) be made more coherent and operational to support farmer-managed seed systems in Africa. More in particular, harmonisation efforts should be predominantly geared towards protecting local biodiversity, thus indigenous seed varieties and landraces, which are maintained and reproduced within farmer-managed seed systems.

 

The publication is the first of a series of research outputs intended for the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA). It was produced in the framework of DeSIRA-LIFT’s Service area 3, which aims at supporting policy dialogue between the African Union and the European Commission with evidence and actionable knowledge on trends related to food systems transformation.

Are breeders’ rights and farmers’ rights to seed in conflict or complementary in African countries? In its publication Current developments in seed laws harmonisation in Africa, launched in late 2022, DeSIRA-LIFT provides key elements to answer this question. The report, written by Peter Munyi, reviews the international treaties and policy instruments that determine the plant breeders’ rights and farmers’ rights to seed.

 

The findings show that current seed policies need to (and can) be made more coherent and operational to support farmer-managed seed systems in Africa. More in particular, harmonisation efforts should be predominantly geared towards protecting local biodiversity, thus indigenous seed varieties and landraces, which are maintained and reproduced within farmer-managed seed systems.

 

The publication is the first of a series of research outputs intended for the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA). It was produced in the framework of DeSIRA-LIFT’s Service area 3, which aims at supporting policy dialogue between the African Union and the European Commission with evidence and actionable knowledge on trends related to food systems transformation.

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In English

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Overview of signatories to international treaties and instruments

African parties of the Plant treaty (ITPGRFA)

African members of UPOV 1991

Countries that have adopted the SADC Harmonised Seed Regulatory System (2013) ​

Countries that have adopted the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations (2014)

Countries signatories of the Arusha Protocol

Countries that are members of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)

current seed policies need to (and can) be made more coherent and operational to support farmer-managed seed systems in Africa.

The effort to harmonize seed laws across the continent should strive to balance the rights of plant breeders and the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.

exemptions to safeguard farmers’ rights can co-exist with breeders’ rights. However, african seed policies lack coherent and well-defined criteria that could make such exemptions and co-existence actionable.

The new AU Guidelines for harmonization of seed policies recognize Farmer-Managed Seed Systems and can provide guidance on the implementation of farmers’ rights at regional and national level.

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