Side event to the Agroecology Conference: Seed sovereignty for food and nutrition security, income, and resilience to climate change, agroecological transformation and sustainable food systems

Co-organizers: BIBA Kenya, SSN Kenya, African Center for Biodiversity (ACB), TABIO, ESSAF, Haki Nawiri Africa, ESAFF

Main organizers:  SWISSAID TANZANIA

A seed stands at the beginning of every crop plant and behind every bite of food we eat. Which seeds we sow, has a strong influence on how resistant plants are to droughts and pests as well as on their suitability for agroecological cropping systems. How seeds are owned and governed has strong effects on food security and diversity, on nutrition, as well as the resilience of food systems. In the SDGs the importance of diverse seeds for the Zero Hunger Goal (SDG 2) is recognized in SDG 2.5. During the UNFSS, putting farmers’ access to crop diversity first in seed policy and practice was discussed as one of the Game Changing Solutions of Action Track one. The Committee on World Food Security’s guidelines have long stressed the importance of agrobiodiversity for food security, especially with a view to nutrition (VGFSN) and the enhanced diversity necessary for agroecological transition (Policy recommendations on agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition). Given these recent discussions on peasant’s seeds, seed regulation and intellectual property rights on seeds, this side event comes timely to identify approaches to make seed systems fit for the agroecological transformation.

The question how seed systems are designed, has strong impacts on many if not all 13 Elements of Agroecology that have been elaborated by HLPE: Seed diversity is the central column of (agro-) Biodiversity. If we want to grant for Co-Creation of knowledge, Participation, Fairness as well as Land and natural resource management, we must move away from a linear approach to seed towards seed systems that put farmers in the center, give them an active role in breeding and multiplication of locally adapted seeds. In particular the role of women and elder people who often have some particular knowledge on seeds should be strengthen, but also youth who have a particular interest in seeds that is resilient to future climate conditions, should be capacitated.  

If we are to truly implement the Policy Recommendations on Agroecological and other Innovative Approaches as well as the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, we also have to apply them on seed system as the foundation of every food system. However, to date policies and regulations of seed are still mostly made with insufficient participation of stakeholders involved in food production and consumption. Furthermore, peasant’s rights to seeds as enshrined in ITPGRFA, UNDROP and UNDRIP still largely lack implementation. Therefore, this side event looks at seed systems from different angles. It puts a special focus on the situation in Africa, where still 60% to 80% of seeds are farm saved, but also sheds light on current developments in Europe and worldwide.

AFSA as a network of peasant organization of all regions of SSA Africa, in a participatory process has elaborated a Legal Framework for the Recognition and Promotion of Farmer Managed Seed Systems and the Protection of Biodiversity. It proposes adjustments and mechanism at national and regional level to better foster farmers seed system and widen the current focus on the formal seed sector by many governments. This was predated by the Shared Action Framework for resilient Seed System of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, which was elaborated in a similarly participatory way and identified similar priorities.

Following the government of Kenya lifting the ban against GMO crops and products, several groups in East African Community including Members of Parliament from Maize producing regions and religious leaders have voiced their opposition against importation and open cultivation of GMOs. Over a hundred civil society organizations including small farmer groups in the East African community including Uganda and Tanzania have come together to fight against the GMO ban lift in Kenya. GMOs are considered to interfere totally with the east African market as trade will not be free within the countries that are not allowing GMOs. Regardless of the efforts put forward by East African countries to develop, support and promote the use of local seeds, the ban lift against GMO poses as threat to seed sovereignty especially to small holder framers who depends on own saved seeds for more than 90%.

In Tanzania the Ministry of Agriculture recently called for action to improve the seed systems in the country. The Minister of Agriculture formulated the vision that by 2025 farmer managed seeds will be sold side by side with commercial seeds. Safety of farmer managed seeds against contamination especially in the border region is at stake and requires deliberate efforts to protect farmers seeds. It is for this fact that SWISSAID Tanzania in collaboration with other seed sovereigntists are co-organizing this side event to trigger the discussions on around conference sub-theme five “Institutional and policy drivers for agroecology transformations” and partially the conference sub theme two “Best practices towards food security, nutrition, consumption, and health: Soil health and farmer managed seed systems’’. During the event, we will get to understand the strong initiatives in research, policy and farmers experience that are being promoted towards achieving the resilient and sustainable food systems. The is proposed to take place on 22nd  March 2023 from 14:00 – 17:00 (To be confirmed)


Tentative programme

Activity Responsible Person Time Allocated
Opening remarks
Peter Aeberhard (SW),
Joe Mzinga (ESAFF
Keynote speech from EAC
Keynote speech from MoA Tanzania
Voices from the field (major concerns
regarding seed policies and GMO ban lift in KE)
2-3 farmers
Presentation of comparative analysis of best practices,
legislative matters across East African countries
Haki Nawiri & ESAFF
Presentation of case studies on seed and food
sovereignty highlighting social economic impacts
CROPS4HD Common position paper on pluralistic
seed systems and seed policies
Simon Degelo (SW)
Panel discussion with participation of audience:

• Which are the most pressing changes of
seed regulation and policies needed to facilitate an
agroecological transformation

• What are the key levers at national and
regional level to better implement farmers rights and
to safeguard seed diversity.
The way forward and closing remarks

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