René Ségbènou has been in all the fights for more than thirty years – farmers' seeds, GMOs, biosecurity, agroecology, UPOV, patenting of life, land grabbing - in Benin and Africa.
A tireless advocate for the peasant cause, he is one of those who, very early on, understood that the crisis in rural areas and agriculture needs strong voices that will be heard. That's why he established a popular university in Benin to democratise access to training, and played a key role in the African Institute for Economic and Social Development (INADES Formation), a network dedicated to the education of farmer leaders.
With his wife Jeanne Zoundjihékpon, a member of GRAIN's staff from 2001 to 2016, René was one of the co-founders of the Coalition for the Protection of Africa’s Genetic Heritage, an alliance of farming organisations, NGO activists, lawyers and researchers in 9 French-peaking African countries. COPAGEN was built as a space for training, action and advocacy for peasant seeds and local knowledge against the onslaught of GMOs and hybrids in Africa.
René also headed Jinukun, the national branch of COPAGEN, which won, together with the Benin peasant movement, the adoption of a national moratorium against GMOs in 2002, subsequently renewed.
From India to Europe to the Americas, René travelled every continent on the planet to advance the fight for food sovereignty in Africa. As such, he was even among those who set up the Uganda-based Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.
Yesterday he was taken away in the last battle he fought for about 15 years. Surrounded by his family and loved ones, René fell asleep forever in the early hours of April 11, 2021. Go fighter, colleague, brother and friend, we will never forget you!