In September 2014, one hundred twenty smallholder farmers, researchers and decision-makers met in the central Honduran mountains in Siguatepeque, the lush green “garden town,” dedicated primarily to farm and forest enterprises. Little did they know as they gathered for the 12th National Encounter of Smallholder Farmer Innovators, that, for the first time, besides sharing their agricultural innovations, crop varieties and traditional knowledge with each other, someone from far away had been invited to talk to them about the rights they had as farmers. What’s more, Juanita Chaves Posada from the Secretariat of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) would help them start a process to develop material on Farmers’ Rights specifically tailored for their country – and for which their input was essential.
The 12th National Encounter of Smallholder Farmer Innovators was a logical continuation of the previous 11 gatherings, providing a common space for recognizing the genetic diversity of the main crops in Honduras. The gatherings serve a vital purpose for exchanging seeds among neighbouring farming communities and researchers, recovering lost seeds relevant for cultural ceremonies and specific cooking preparations, and exchanging agricultural knowledge.
But during this meeting, the Honduran smallholder farmers were brought up to date about the existence of an international law recognizing their rights as farmers. Their past, present and future contributions in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for food and agriculture had been internationally recognized : they had the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed. They learned that they could participate in decision-making and in the fair and equitable sharing of their specialized agricultural knowledge.
Thanks to the support of GFAR, farmers from Honduras are now aware of Farmers’ Rights as a collective human right, recognizing and allowing farmers to continue their work as custodians and innovators of food crops; rewarding them for their contributions to global food security; ensuring their participation in decision-making; and protecting their traditional knowledge, innovations and practices.
Working in small groups, smallholder farmer leaders identified concrete measures needed in Honduras to increase awareness, build capacity and support the implementation of Farmers’ Rights. Among the things identified was the need for support from GFAR for the development of capacity building material on Farmers’ Rights for Honduras.
GFAR heard this message and after a long participatory and inclusive process, led by GFAR and involving relevant partners including the Development Fund of Norway, the University of Zamorano, the Mesoamerican Programme on Participatory Plant Breeding, and the Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers (FIPAH), the Capacity Building Material on Farmers’ Rights as they Relate to Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is now ready to be used and distributed in Honduras.
The capacity building book, developed in Spanish, contains 10 chapters providing readers with relevant information about:
- what Farmers’ Rights are;
- how they can be implemented in practice;
- the importance of community seed banks for the conservation and use of local crops relevant for food security;
- the scope and mechanisms of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
- the rights of indigenous and local communities over their natural resources and traditional knowledge;
- the rights of women smallholder farmers;
- Farmers’ Rights under the Regional Action Plan of Mesoamerica for the Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
- relevant national law and policy framework in Honduras for the implementation of Farmers’ Rights;
- and the need for co-existence with breeders’ rights.
At the end of each chapter, users (farmers, researchers, decision-makers) will find proposed exercises that could be used at workshops or community meetings to ensure the understanding of relevant concepts and to undertake clear actions to implement Farmers’ Rights.
Developing the capacity building material on Farmers’ Rights for Honduras is just the beginning of a process that needs further support and empowerment from the multiple stakeholders: the national government, farmers’ organizations, academia, agricultural institutions, donors and international organizations.
GFAR and its partners are very happy to have fulfilled the request for support by smallholder farmer leaders for developing capacity building material on Farmers’ Rights in Honduras. We invite all stakeholders in Honduras to use this material and to share it widely in order to increase understanding of what Farmers’ Rights are, and jointly cooperate in its national and local implementation.
Download the book (Spanish language) in PDF here.
by Afshaan Shafi, Communication and Liaison Consultant working with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research
Photo credit: Juanita Chaves
Infographic by Afshaan Shafi