Peasant Seeds, the Foundation of Food Sovereignty in Africa

CNOP, BEDE, IIED – August 2008

The whole world is experiencing a food crisis. Civil society is clamouring the governments to declare a state of emergency. The causes of the crisis are well known and have been denounced for years by farmers and citizens through their organisations. One of the causes is that peasants can no longer make independent agricultural and alimentary choices since seed privatisation is making farmers more dependent on commercial varieties that are not adapted to their lands or not reproducible as hybrids. The international institutions and the governments, that for many years supported “visionary” agricultural policies based on exporting local crops while flooding the local markets with imported foods (in those times industrial crops were subsidised) are slowly but surely recognising that food security in the rural areas requires dynamic family farms. Liberal solutions to the crisis provide a boost for the private sector through ambitious programmes such as the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) which includes the distribution of seed “improved” by research, but this seed requires more fertiliser and pesticides. False solutions of this kind are not new. They are repetitions of historical failures of technological revolutions which contributed to the tragic loss of local biodiversity, the related know-how and, ultimately, the farmers’ loss of control of their food supply.
Suggestions to formulate more appropriate seed policies were put forth at an international workshop on seed privatisation organised in Bamako by the Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes du Mali in February 2007 in conjunction with BEDE and IIED, European organisations. This workshop was held as preparation to the Nyéléni International Forum for Food Sovereignty (Mali, February 2007) attended by members of peasants’ organisations from 17 countries, mainly West Africa but also Asia, Latin America and Europe for the twofold purpose of a) tryng to better understand how regulations and laws have deprived the peasants of their right to conserve and re-sow their seed, and b) proposing collective tools to strengthen the farmers’ rights to and control of their seeds.
The report is published in an illustrated brochure, available in both French and English, that justifies the main points from the final declaration of the international workshop on seed privatisation. The main points come from the participants’ presentations. The brochure was designed as a communication tool to spread information broadly and stimulate debate. It comes with a CD that presents the workshop discussions in detail with audio and video recordings of the presentations and a slide show. Background documents have also been added. Focus is on community initiatives and networks of organisations that put peasant seeds at the heart of food sovereignty activities.
Document available in French and English.
With support from: AFVP Mali, DDC Mali (Swiss Cooperation), DGIS (Dutch Cooperation), MISEREOR, OXFAM-Novib, USC.

Price: 7 €