| THE FARMERS' RIGHTS
Side event on Farmers'
Rights at the Conference of the Parties to the CBD
the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)'s COP 9 in Bonn 19-30 May 2008, a
side event entitled "Agricultural biodiversity: Implementing Farmers' Rights
in Practice" was organized with two objectives: To launch the new
Farmers Rights Website, and to present a workshop module on Farmers'
Rights as well as a report on success stories
from the realization of Farmers' Rights.
The side event was
organized by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway, in co-operation with the
German GTZ (commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and
Development, Germany) and the Development Fund, Norway. It was attended by 70
participants from the Conference of the Parties to the CBD.
von Lossau, Coordinator of the GTZ project 'People Food and Biodiversity',
and Bell Batta Torheim, Program Coordinator of the Development Fund,
gave the welcome addresses where they emphasized the crucial importance of
realizing Farmers' Rights.
Implementing Farmers' Rights in
Regine Andersen, Senior Research Fellow of the Fridtjof
Nansen Institute, and Director of the Farmers' Rights Project
Andersen started by pointing out what Farmers' Rights are, how they are
recognized in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture, and why they are so important for the conservation and sustainable
use of crop genetic diversity, global food security and poverty alleviation in
the South. She further highlighted that there are not yet any guidelines for
the implementation of Farmers' Rights as provided in the International Treaty,
and that national governments are free to choose the measures they deem
required, according to their needs and priorities. However, as expressed from
many developing countries, guidance is urgently needed.
this request, based on the International Treaty and through research from the
Farmers' Rights Project, Regine Andersen presented a framework for
implementation of Farmers' Rights. This framework consists of eight steps, and
for each one of them the available options for implementation were outlined
(read more about the steps here).
Various success stories were highlighted illustrating the steps, before the
report with 17 success stories was presented (read more about the report
Furthermore, Regine Andersen
officially launched the new website, which you are visiting right now,
www.farmersrights.org, and invited
all participants to comment on, and contribute to, this new tool for the
implementation of Farmers' Rights. She also presented a draft workshop module
that has been developed as a framework for dialogue on the implementation of
Farmers' Rights, and invited the audience to participate in an informal
reference group on the finalization of the module.
concluded her presentation by saying that Farmers' Rights are crucial for the
conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources and in the fight
against poverty. She stressed that implementation is urgent, due to mounting
barriers and challenges, and that implementing Farmers' Rights is feasible.
Guidance and tools are there and the success stories from the realization of
Farmers' Rights provide models, positive lessons - and lots of
The Bean Seed Catalogue in Costa Rica as a
Participatory Mechanism to Guarantee Farmers High Quality Seeds by Using
Eduardo Rojas, Farmer from Costa Rican farmers'
organization ASOPRO, and Eduardo Aguilar, Policy Advisor of the Participatory
Plant Breeding in Meso America Programme (PPB-MA) in Costa
Eduardo Aguilar started out presenting the collaboration
between PPB-MA and the local organization ASOPRO in Costa Rica, which involves
500 farmers engaged in participatory plant breeding (PPB) using local varieties
as breeding material. A major result of their work is the development of eight
new varieties of bean between 2000 and 2005. One major challenge for the
farmers was their lack of access to seed markets to sell the new
In order to overcome these obstacles, the farmers together
with ASOPRO and technicians developed a "seed protocol" to set up a mechanism
for controlling and distributing the seeds developed and multiplied by the
farmers involved in the PPB activities. The Seed Protocol is managed by the
farmers and they define the quality criteria for approval of seeds for
distribution, thereby making use of their traditional knowledge. The National
Seed Bureau has acknowledged the Seed Protocol.
Among the advantages of
the Seed Protocol, Eduardo Aguilar mentioned farmers' guaranteed access to high
quality seeds at affordable prices; the effective promotion of farmers'
participation; farmers' collective ownership of genetic materials; active use
of improved local varieties; as well as income generation for the local
Participatory Plant Breeding for Adding
Value to Traditional Crops in Nepal: An Approach to Realizing Farmers' Rights
to Benefit Sharing
Pratap K. Shrestha, Executive Director of Local
Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD),
Pratap K. Shrestha started out by highlighting the ecological
features and the livelihood systems of Nepal. Particularly important in this
context, is that farm-saved seed meets more than 90 percent of the seed demand
and that there is high reliance on local crops. He continued by explaining some
of the roles that farmers play in participatory plant breeding, including
providing genetic material with associated knowledge and deciding on the
selection of parents and breeding lines for specific traits. The motivation for
PPB initially was to increase breeding efficiency to develop new plant
varieties suitable for farmers' diverse needs and production systems. Another
important goal has now become to add value to local plant varieties. This
creates incentives for on-farm conservation while at the same time improving
the livelihoods of farmers.
Pratap K. Shrestha showed examples of how
this was done with various varieties, and how the process as well as the
breeding lines were carefully documented. For example, he explained how a
popular local landrace of maize with excellent cooking qualities and high yield
was crossed with a lodging tolerate variety. He also showed how farmers
organized themselves in groups to facilitate community-based seed production.
He concluded by stating that participatory plant breeding is one of the
effective means of implementing Farmers' Rights through the protection of
traditional knowledge, the participation in decision making, the sharing of
benefits from increased varietal choice and by enabling farmers to save, use,
exchange and sell farm-saved seed. Particularly, he stressed how participatory
plant breeding is an effective tool in adding value to local plant
South East Asian Examples of Strengthening the Right
to Participate in Decision Making
Wilhelmina R. Pelegrina, (Executive
Director, Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment
(SEARICE), the Philippines
Wilhelmina Pelegrina presented examples
of different policy processes in Bhutan, the Philippines and Vietnam that
proved cases on various ways in which farmers could participate in decision
making. In the case of Bhutan, she explained how greater awareness among the
government officials was spurring a review process of the national seed laws.
Among the achievements of the farmers is the development of 27 farmer varieties
in six years as well as purification of traditional rice varieties that have
lead to a 30 % increase in yield. The recognition of farmers' contribution in
conserving and developing crop diversity is also evident in the national gene
bank, which have labeled the seeds with the names of the farmers of whom the
seeds were collected from.
The strong farmer movement in the Philippines
makes the country an interesting case for Farmers' Rights. SEARICE has
organized regional consultations on Farmers' Rights for years in order to
involve farmers in defining what Farmers' Rights mean to them. This led to the
adoption of the Cebu Declaration on Farmers' Rights. Based on this, the farmer
movement engaged in dialog with the Congress and they demanded financial
support to on-farm conservation from the national budget. This shows how
lobbying and farmers' involvement goes beyond the mere drafting of seed
Finally, Pelegrina showed how Vietnam is a case of
up-scaling of Farmers' Rights as local initiatives on farm conservation and
development of plant genetic resources are implemented in 550 communities in 26
provinces. The local experiences of the development of farmers' varieties have
motivated a process of rethinking seeds program at the provincial level and the
relationship between Farmers' Rights and Plant Variety Protection regulation as
the PVP laws were drafted without consulting farmers. To combat this weakness
of the PVP law, a Decision on Regulations on on-farm PVP was adopted in
February 2008 aiming for the registration of farmers' varieties.
The side event was concluded with an open
discussion among all the participants. Regassa Feyissa from Ethio-Organic Seed
Action (EOSA), Ethiopia, pointed out the challenges created by the lack of
clear definition of Farmers' Rights in the International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and his concern about the
role of industry and their lack of clear obligations to share benefits with
farmers. Morgan Ody from Via Campesina reminded the meeting that farmers are
the main breeders of the world creating far more varieties than industry. She
considered the ITPGRFA to be a dynamic and positive agreement, but raised
concerns about the fact that compulsory benefit sharing was linked to patents
as this is incompatible with the realization of Farmers' Rights. She was also
worried about how free trade agreements with developing countries reduce their
opportunities to implement Farmers' Rights. Finally, she stressed that Farmers'
Rights are strongly linked to the right to land and water. If farmers
disappear, agricultural biodiversity will inevitably also be lost.
Ghijsen from Bayer Crop Science stressed the need to distinguish IPR laws from
seed laws, referring to the previous discussion. According to him, seed laws
have been too strictly implemented in developing countries. He was in favor of
the UPOV system since it allows unprotected varieties to be freely produced and
sold and that it provides for breeders' exemption on protected varieties.
Regarding the benefit sharing obligations in the ITPGRFA, he stressed the
importance of free access to genetic resources. Kamalesh Adhikari from SAWTEE
in Nepal was critical to the narrow definition of Farmers' Rights in Article 9
of the ITPGRFA as he was concerned about the consequences for agricultural
biodiversity if Farmers' Rights are viewed as only an issue in the South. He
also raised the challenge for developing countries to implement Farmers' Rights
since they have obligations to implement Plant Variety Protection as WTO
members. Regine Andersen concluded the side event by saying that even though
the ITPGRFA has a limited definition of Farmers' Rights, this does not mean
that other aspects of Farmers' Rights are not important. The ITPGRFA, however,
addresses Farmers' Rights as they are related to plant genetic resources for
food and agriculture, and is thus an important international instrument in this
regard. Whether this potential will be used depends on the initiatives of
stakeholders and on political will. Finally, she said that creating legal space
for Farmers' Rights was crucial for ensuring the continuation of farmers'
on-farm management of plant genetic diversity and thus for their contribution
to the global pool of genetic resources.
Invitation and program
Pages in this sub-section:
THE SECOND PHASE OF THE FARMERS' RIGHTS
The Lusaka informal
international consultation process on Farmers' Rights
Side Event on Farmers' Rights at
the Second Session of the Governing Body
Website on Farmers'
Report on Success
Stories from the Realization of Farmers' Rights
Side event on Farmers' Rights
at the Conference of the Parties to the CBD
Book on Success Stories from the
Realization of Farmers' Rights
Research project on civil society
strategies for the implementation of Farmers' Rights
Side Event on Farmers' Rights at
the Third Session of the Governing Body