Since August 2014, GFAR has been working with the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA), a non-profit public interest organization, “a think tank and advocacy institution promoting sustainable environment and natural resources management” in Malawi and the southern Africa region, a predominantly agro-based economy. CEPA provides advice and conducts research in environment and natural resource management policies and legislation with a view to promote sustainable environmental and natural resource management. In the second of a series in which we hear from GFAR’s partners, GFAR Correspondent Afshaan Shafi spoke with William Chadza of CEPA about their work on Farmers’ Rights in Malawi.
What do you think has been your Organization’s largest or most important contribution to the promotion and protection of Farmers’ Rights?
The Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy has been involved with Farmers’ Rights since 2007. Our work has been responsible for awareness creation amongst stakeholders, particularly amongst farmers, farmers’
organizations and decision-makers.
How has the work done by CEPA & GFAR helped promote Farmers’ Rights in Malawi? Has it made a difference at the national policy level?
Our work has helped enhance understanding of Farmers’ Rights and discussion among policy-makers. It has initiated debate amongst policy-makers on the need for policy guidance on Farmers’ Rights in Malawi, particularly in light of the ongoing review of the National Seed Policy—an integrated national seed policy for Malawi.
Do you have any stories from your personal experience with Farmers’ Rights to share with us?
Following articles in local newspapers about the lack of consultations on the revision of the National Seed Policy, the Ministry of Agriculture invited CEPA for discussions. We had a very positive and successful meeting and addressed some of the shortcomings of the revised National Seed Policy, at the end of which it was agreed that CEPA would prepare a text on Farmers’ Rights for insertion into the draft revised National Seed Policy, addressing concerns about Farmers’ Rights and other issues related to the informal seeds system. The Ministry also agreed to pursue the draft Plant Breeders’ Rights and Farmers’ Rights and ensure their finalization. With support from GFAR in developing the analysis and recommendations, I led the CEPA delegation and was pleased with the outcomes.
We raised a number of points related to Farmers’ Rights, including the fact that the informal seed sector had been entirely overlooked in the draft revised policy. We pointed out the absence of a policy position on protecting/strengthening the informal seed sector; the lack of recognition and protection for small-scale farmers’ exchange system; lack of clarity about ownership of seed material, particularly those used by the formal seed system; the importance of ensuring access by farmers to good quality seeds and strengthening community-based seed systems. We discussed the need for the drafting process to adhere to relevant provisions in regional and international policy processes and decisions related to seed, particularly the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. We also pointed out the importance of finalizing the draft Plant Breeders Rights Bill, the Farmers’ Rights Bill and of addressing plant variety protection issues before concluding the revision of the National Seed Policy.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in the implementation of Farmers’ Rights? How do you think this can best be addressed?
Two of the biggest challenges in Malawi’s Farmers’ Rights are Policy and Practice:
- In terms of Policy, there is the dilemma of how best to harmonize regional seed legislation (for example, between Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the African Region Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).
- In terms of Practice, the scale of implementing practical ways of realizing Farmers’ Rights is still relatively small.
The policy dilemma can be addressed by providing concrete national policy direction and guidance on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights. And the challenge regarding practice can be addressed by scaling up various ongoing practical ways of implementing Farmers’ Rights to enhance impact and influence policy.
Afshaan Shafi is a Communication and Liaison Consultant working with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research.
Photo Credits: Juanita Chaves