Farmer seeds, plants of the future for healthy and sustainable nutrition

by COASP, COPAGEN | 20 Jul 2018

West African Committee for Farmer Seeds - COASP
Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Heritage - COPAGEN

Dakar, July 9, 2018

Farmer seeds, plants of the future for healthy and sustainable nutrition

The COASP and COPAGEN, their members and allies are outraged by the drive of our regional institutions to harmonize the regional seed legislation for the benefit of the seed industry in particular and the agrochemical sector in general.

We consider a shame that the Regional Committee for Seeds and Plants of West Africa (ECOWAS-CILSS-UEMOA) met in Dakar, from 9 to 11 July 2018, with seed stakeholders from seventeen countries ( 16 West African countries, plus Chad) in the notable absence of Farmer Organizations (FOs) and independent civil society organizations, to assess progress in implementing the harmonized regional seed regulation.

"All that is done for you without you is against you" goes the saying. The COASP, COPAGEN and AFSA (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa) are, among other organizations of the civil society (CSO), independent, very active actors on the seed both at regional, and continental levels. They learned about this consultation through the online press. In addition, we can see on the participants and guests list, some infamous organizations mainly interested in trade and profit regardless of the socio-environmental impacts of their actions. This lack of transparency and inclusivity strongly suggests that this is a plot that is being mounted against farmers and food sovereignty.

Why are they hiding to impose chemical seeds?

Everyone knows that cultivated biodiversity is the raw material for the seed industry. The maintenance of this cultivated biodiversity is mainly the responsibility of farmers and small scale agriculture. However, by banning farmer seeds, their laws are threatening them with extinction. This is why States, in their sovereign role and social protection, must organize the collection of these seeds before they disappear and make them a national common heritage.

It is general knowledge that industrial agriculture:

  • Develops monoculture of a single seed variety with intensive use of artificial fertilizers, herbicides and toxic pesticides.
  • Wants to bring us to replace our reproducible seeds, which are ideal for food sovereignty with hybrid, genetically modified (GM) seeds that are too expensive, uncertain and a threat to the health of biodiversity in general.
  • Wants to replace family farming with agribusiness for commercial speculation destined for international markets to the detriment of local markets.
  • Experience shows that this path leads to poverty, poor health, a degraded environment, loss of biodiversity and poor resilience.

It is better to reinforce what is already working: farmer seeds

To date, the use of seeds produced, selected and exchanged between farmers, is more commonplace. These seeds, of great diversity, offer a series of varieties that farmers master very well in various agroecological zones, for food production, nutrition and even cultural expressions, in natural conditions that strengthen health. soils, living beings including man and biodiversity. Thus, 90% of investments in West African family farming come from the producers themselves. Despite this lack of support from the public authorities, family farming produces 90% of the food consumed in the region, while using farmer seeds.

But over the years, a legal arsenal imposed by the agri’food industry has been put in place to force farmers to use non-diversified seeds. Disadvantage: these new seeds require the massive use of fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides, in addition to the associated fossil fuels for mechanized farming operations in extended monoculture areas.

What we want is the best for humanity

  1. Implementing farmers' rights: Article 9 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Agriculture and Food (ITPGRFA), ratified by most of our States, gives farmers and peasants the opportunity to preserve their autonomy through their dynamics of production / exchange of farmer seeds. However, the national authorities for the implementation of the ITPGRFA, if they exist, are not dynamic.
  2. Broadening quality assurance by supporting the systematization of farmer models. Depending on the crops, environmental conditions and community groups, the systems of quality control and maintenance have always existed. Research and lawmakers should approach the repositories of this knowledge to strengthen them rather than trying to set up a single insurance system favorable only to chemical-industrial seeds.
  3. Financing and improving investment for the development of farmer seed system. We acknowledge and welcome the support from local authorities and local governments in the region which gives farmer organizations and other CSOs physical spaces for the promotion of farmer seeds as well as more sustainable food and production systems with associated culinary arts. However, we continue to call for strong involvement of the central government and regional institutions to establish, in partnership with farmers' organizations and CSOs, legal quality assurance systems based on millennial farmer knowledge.

Contacts :
Alihou NDIAYE, COASP Coordinator: (+221) 33 951 00 46 / 773210696
Sidy BA : COPAGEN/Sénégal focal point : (+221) 33 889 34 39  / 776535051

Signed by:

  • Action Aid Sénégal
  • AFSA
  • Caritas Kaolack
  • Copagen
  • Enda Pronat
  • Fahamu Africa
  • FAPD
  • Nous Sommes la Solution
  • UGPM
  • UJAC Lukaal