Seed is power – Reclaiming African Seed Sovereignty: Africans speak out against corporate hegemony over seed and food systems

In rejection of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), which held its pre-summit this week, civil society, farmers groups and social movements came together for a global counter-mobilisation that spanned four days, with 15 online sessions. One of the webinars, titled Seed is power: Reclaiming African Seed Sovereignty, featured a presentation: Africans speak out against corporate hegemony over seed and food systems, by Sabrina Masinjila, research and advocacy officer at the African Centre of Biodiversity (ACB).

The presentation is based on the work of the ACB, in collaboration and partnership with many social movements on the continent, and work with social movements in various international fora over the years. You can watch the presentation by clicking on the video below.

To read this statement, please click here. The link for the recording of the entire session is forthcoming.

Masinjila outlines why civil society and farmer-led movements reject current seed and intellectual protection laws, which serve as instruments that support and continue to entrench industrial agriculture and the reinforcement of indebtedness, inequality, social exclusion and ecological crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss and degradation, pest infestations, and deforestation, among others.

In light of the failures of corporate seed laws to work in the interests of the majority of African smallholders, she then goes on to detail the steps needed to actively advance farmers’ rights and farmer managed seed systems. Central to this is autonomy – a prerequisite and core component of the exercise of rights by family and community farmers and peasants. Thus, legally binding and enforceable rights and protections are urgently needed against agrarian extractivism, patents and other forms of intellectual property rights, commercial seed and other laws and digital sequence information, which all erode the exercise of farmers’ rights. 

Through Food Systems 4 People, we call on African governments to expressly recognise farmers’ seed and farmers’ rights to seed and seed practices, not only as part of a bundle of human rights, but also as necessary building blocks for our struggles for transformation towards seed and food sovereignty. 

Most importantly, the conception of these rights needs to be grounded in a wider vision of food sovereignty that encompasses the rights of both urban and rural dwellers to nutritious and culturally appropriate food.

The full programme and links to recordings of the 15 sessions can be found on the Food Systems 4 People website.

The ACB was also a coordinator of another session, where we launched the common Africa position, which outlines why we reject the UNFSS. We are calling on organisations to sign on. You can read the statement here, which includes the link to endorse.