What’s new and good and lovely friends? This week I’m out in Harare for an African Center for Biodiversity meeting “campaigning for seed and food sovereignty in Africa” hosted by Pelum Zimbabwe at the lovely Cresta Lodge. I arrived and immediately began to recenter myself in preparation for the event. And boy I’m I grateful I did!
It was a packed first day. The meeting began with the screening of a short film focused on seed that set stage for the discussions. Over the last few years we have seen a rush by large corporations to enter the African seed markets. Seed in most cultures around the world has a sacred place in people’s lives. Seed is more than just food. We have planted, cultivated, nurtured, harvested, eaten, celebrated and exchanged it- it has been this way for millennia.
In Africa, growing food was a spiritual task undertaken by families to nourish their beings. A deep connection to the land that allowed this was key. Small-scale producers contribute a substantial share of the world’s food (the exact percentage is debatable and has somehow become a factoid of 70% of the Worlds food.
Biotech Companies continue to use their technologies (gene cutting, gene sequencing etc.) to research, build, produce and market their hybrid creations as the solution to World hunger. Farmer led systems have for centuries used natural selection as the basis for propagating the good seed we revere to this day- passing them down from generation to generation. Farmer led systems have kept this knowledge and continue to safeguard it through seed sharing.
Most of the corporations that have acquired African Seed companies through acquisitions and mergers have a history of being re-branded from chemical weapon manufacturers in World War II to Biotech/ Agro-chemical producers post the war selling fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in this day. Africa’s vast under-exploited natural resources and labor make it a fertile ground for agribusiness.
See- it is against this background that I’m not ashamed to say I got trust issues. Civil Society Organisations at this meeting are questioning the motives behind seed laws and drives to register Africa’s diverse crops. We believe that Farmer led systems are under threat by Seed laws driven by big agro. What level of engagement do Small holder farmers have at national, regional and continental level when it comes to policies and programs such as crop variety registration?
The Southern African Center for Development (SADC) is one such regional body pushing for crop variety registration as a way to foster trade between member Countries. So far SADC have on record only 5 entities that have managed to meet registration requirements. They are Monsanto, Syngenta, Pannar Seed, Seedco and DuPont. They say the records are for information only and will not be accessed by anyone. So what- the records will sit there and look pretty? Still, how can we be assured this database of crop varieties inherited freely from our forefathers will not be open to use by the biotech industry who can easily get characteristics of crops- snip here and there and register a new variety as their own property?
Is there any real political will for these regional policies seeing as that most local and national are geared to supporting increased production and subtly point to big agro producers? SADC say that they’re not imposing their registration but anyone who wants to trade in seed must subscribe to it. Isn’t that discriminatory and cutting the larger part of our unregistered small scale farmers out of the game? If we have to create a visual of this- why with only 10% of the market registered should the rights of 90% in agriculture be cut off? Who is the real driver of these laws? What does it mean for our Country?
We enter day 2 of the discussions. We speak intellectual property rights and later we attend a seed festival! I’m very excited. I will take plenty of pics and keep twitting away! My Twitter handle is Missevij and you can find me here on Facebook.
I continue to do this work and to blog to envoke public interest; getting all of you awakened and present in this very real battle to save our food systems, improve our nutrition and health and to saving our planet. We’re all connected in this perfect circle called life. Be awake.
Have you thought about yourself and the future of our Planet today? Please let me know even if you haven’t thought about anything…tell me about ‘nothing!’ Let’s spark conversations that inspire changes for a better life!
As always- I wish you love and light.
Yours in health- naturally