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Options for realizing Farmers' Rights

There are many barriers to the realization of Farmers' Rights, but there are also many options for removing these barriers and promoting the rights of farmers. Here we will highlight some central options, taking the identified barriers to the realization of Farmers' Rights as points of departure.

Read more about:
    Options for upholding and developing legal space
   Options for creating incentive, reward and recognition mechanisms
   Options for enabling farmers' participation in decision-making



Options for upholding and developing legal space

One specific measure would be to review legislation and draft legislation affecting Farmers' Rights with a view to upholding or creating legal space. From a Farmers' Rights perspective, the main goal must be to uphold the legal space for farmers within these emerging legislative frameworks. As a minimum, farmers must be allowed to save, develop, exchange and sell seeds and propagating varieties from their varieties, i.e. traditional varieties as well as varieties developed by farmers, with other farmers. Plant-health concerns must be addressed in other ways. Furthermore, intellectual property legislation must be designed so as to enable small-scale farmers to continue their customary practices related to seed and propagating material. Finally, access legislation must not impose barriers to conservation activities, or serve to discourage seed exchange among farmers.

Read more:
    How to realize legal space for Farmers' Rights
   Examples of best practices of realizing legal space for Farmers' Rights



Options for creating incentive, reward and recognition mechanisms

Again a review of incentive structures within the agricultural policy would be a good point of departure. Here the aim would not necessarily be to change the incentives for large-scale production and the use of commercial varieties, but rather to ensure that there are compensating measures that ensure incentive structures also for farmers who conserve and sustainably use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Such incentive structures could include extension services to support farmers, loans on favourable conditions for the purchase of farm animals and other required input factors, facilitation of the marketing of products from diverse varieties, etc.

In terms of reward systems and benefit sharing, there are already many small-scale initiatives, such as the establishment of community gene banks, participatory plant breeding, farmers' field schools, and various marketing activities. Today, these benefits are achieved mostly through initiatives taken by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) and some extension services, and they reach only a limited number of farmers. Options for scaling up activities relevant in the context of benefit sharing range from establishing national-level funding mechanisms to channel the necessary resources (partly from international sources) to activities supporting farmers in their maintenance of agro-biodiversity. This would also require up-scaling institutional structures and expertise for these purposes - in close collaboration with farmers.

To enable such up-scaling, international co-operation is probably required. It will take time for the benefit-sharing mechanism of the International Treaty as well as its Funding Strategy to become effective, and we cannot know for sure how much funds they may generate. Thus it is important to find other sources as well. A potential that has so far not been systematically tapped is Official Development Assistance (ODA). Some funds have been directed to in situ management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and some funds have been channelled through bilateral donor agencies and NGOs. But there is no systematic approach to tapping this potential. If the importance of Farmers' Rights for poverty eradication and the UN Millennium Development Goals could be sufficiently highlighted - in addition to the general commitment of the Contracting Parties to international co-operation and technical assistance in the International Treaty - then more funds could probably be released for this purpose.

To ensure recognition of farmers and farming communities, more thought should be given to how seed registries are developed and whether there could be some sort of remuneration for farmers who register their seeds. Awards for innovative farmers could also be considered. In addition it is important to create systems that make farmers feel safe from misappropriation of their seeds. Work is in progress on this in several countries, particularly in Peru, so perhaps we can have some models in the near future.

Read more:
    How to create such mechanisms in the context of Farmers' Rights to participate equitably in benefit sharing
    Examples of best practices in the context of Farmers' Rights to participate equitably in benefit sharing
    How to create such mechanisms in the context of Farmers' Rights to protection of traditional knowledge
    Examples of best practices in the context of Farmers' Rights to protection of traditional knowledge



Options for enabling farmers' participation in decision-making

In a democracy, participation in decision-making at the national level means taking part in decision bodies, in hearings regarding legislation and policies, and in the institutions that provide services to farmers, like research bodies and extension services. It also means taking part in discussions in other arenas, such as the media.

It is vital that farmers' organizations ensure legitimate processes for finding and selecting the people who are to represent farmers and their mandates. To enable such processes, awareness rising, capacity building and information work among farmers are all of crucial importance.

Read more:
    How to enable farmers' participation in decision making
   Examples of best practices farmers' participation in decision making
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