Africa: Farmers' Rights, 05/23/02

Africa: Farmers' Rights, 05/23/02

Status: OAfrica: Farmers' RightsDate distributed (ymd): 020523 Document reposted by Africa ActionAfrica Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++ Region: Continent-WideIssue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+ SUMMARY CONTENTS: This posting contains an article from the Africa Faith & JusticeNetwork (AFJN) about community and farmer rights, as well as thedeclaration of the March 2002 meeting in South Africa on thisissue. AFJN and colleague organizations in the Africa Trade Policy Working Group are actively promoting legislation to support the rights spelled out in the Valley of 1000 Hills Declaration (below). There is a sign-on letter, and much additional background information, on the AFJN web site:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

April 2002>From Larry J. Goodwin, Africa Faith & Justice Network This is an article I've written for AFJN's April newsletter. Itserves as an overview of the recent meeting I attended in SouthAfrica of over 40 participants representing more than 30 NGOs from12 African countries. The meeting was held to discuss communityand farmer rights and draw up advocacy plans for nationallegislatures and regional policy-making bodies. Participants alsodiscussed ways to influence the upcoming Earth Summit inJohannesburg.I hope it will give you a flavor of what took place at this very important gathering of African NGOs and grassroots groups, and what they have to say about sustainable agriculture, food security and sovereignty, and community rights to agricultural resources in the face of present trade rules and practices. - - - - - - - -AFRICAN NGO'S MOBILIZE FOR COMMUNITY & FARMER RIGHTS By Larry J. GoodwinOn 01-08 March 2002, I was privileged to represent AFJN and the Africa Trade Policy Working Group* (ATPWG) at a meeting on community and farmer rights, which was held at the Valley Trust, 1,000 Hills, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. Forty-three participants took part, representing 31 NGO and professional groups from 12 African countries, and Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe. We met to support the rights of African local communities and farmers to sustainable agriculture, food security andsovereignty, bio-diversity, indigenous knowledge and technologies.

Background: As Around Africa readers know, AFJN has helped lead a 2-yeareffort to persuade the US Government (USG) to back the rights ofAfrican farmers to freely access, use, save, exchange and selltheir seeds, plants and food crops. Global trade policies thatmandate the patenting of these agricultural resources threaten African farmers' food security and livelihoods. Multinational pesticide and agribusiness companies, many from the US, have already laid claim to seeds and plants that Africans developed andhave used for generations. By asserting exclusive rights over these agricultural resources - often termed "biopiracy" - the companies are in a position to deny local farmers access to them, or to exact fees for their use.In another twist to the issue, international trade rules favor multinational companies introducing genetically altered seeds and plants (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs) into developing countries. This raises serious concerns for Africa about GMOs' effects on biodiversity (contamination/replacement of local species), development (cost to farmers of using these untested technologies and their chemical inputs) and land ownership (GMOs induce large-scale industrial agriculture, which spurs land consolidation to the detriment of small holder farmers).

The USGaggressively backs the patenting of living organisms (includingseeds, plants and crops) and the dissemination of GMOs, where UScompanies hold the international research and marketing edge. TheUSG is the chief opponent of Africa's attempts to overturn WTOprovisions requiring the patenting of life forms.Africa's response: One of Africa's most innovative responses to the threats its sustainable agriculture faces is the formulation ofAfrican Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights ofLocal Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources, or simply African Model Law. This instrument, initiated by the African Union (formerly Organizationof African Unity), seeks to introduce the principle of communityrights over agricultural resources into international law incontrast to the present sole recognition of individual/corporaterights. The African Union has reaffirmed its commitment to theAfrican Model Law at two high-level meetings, and it is urgingindividual African countries to incorporate it into national law.[See text at:]AFJN and its colleagues in the Africa Trade Policy Working Group, backing this critically important African initiative, have launcheda series of efforts to bring African farmers' rights to the USG's attention. In 2000, we organized an on-going international sign-on campaign for the Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers that now has nearly 400 endorsers [see http://afjn.cua.edufor the text and list of endorsers].

In November 2001, we workedclosely with Rep. Maxine Waters (D- CA39) to introduce a resolution(H. Con. Res. 260) into the House of Representatives upholding theprinciples of the African Model Law [see Action Alert on website]. We are currently trying to get a companion resolutionintroduced into the Senate, and we have initiated an organizational sign-on letter to Congress urging passage of the resolution.The South Africa meeting: In view of the key role the USG is playing in this issue and AFJN/ATPWG efforts to generate support for the African Model Law, African partners invited me to attendthe South Africa meeting. I came away greatly impressed by the caliber of the participants, mostly from African grassroots organizations highly committed to community rights, sustainable agriculture and the protection of indigenous knowledge, especially related to food and medicinal plants.There was keen awareness of the role local agriculture plays in African culture, family life and livelihood systems. Food security and sovereignty figured prominently in our concerns, as did the importance of enhancing the viability of sustainable agriculture.

We agreed strongly on the threat GMOs, patenting and the resultant corporate control of agriculture pose to community and farmer rights; we affirmed the need to expand the capacity of farmers to employ sustainable agricultural techniques and to participate in local, national and regional policy decisions.Each country group devised strategies for on-going action. The African NGOs committed themselves to intensified collaboration with partner groups to lobby their legislatures and regional bodies in support of community and farmer rights. They laid plans toliaise with farmer and community organizations to create awarenessof how GMOs and patenting living organisms could undermine sustainable agriculture, community rights, food security and biodiversity.Participants placed considerable emphasis on the UN's Aug/Sep 2002Earth Summit (World Summit on Sustainable Development, or WSSD) -the follow-up to the 1992 Rio Summit - that will devise andpromote international environmental and development policies. Weagreed to contact our delegates to the summit, urging inclusion ofthe principles of the African Model Law in the final declaration.There is great concern that proponents of market-style globalization, who oppose community rights over agriculture, are steering the summit away from initiatives such as the African Model Law. NGOs from many developing countries are organizing an alternative "People's Summit" to coincide with the WSSD as a way to make theirpositions known to the delegates and media on critical issues like community rights, sustainable agriculture and food security.A major outcome of the meeting was the Valley of 1,000 Hills Declaration.

This statement sums up the principal concerns andcommitments that came out of our discussions. We agreed tocirculate the declaration widely, using it as an educational andlobbying tool to advance African community and farmer rights.We face monumental challenges from USG and WTO policies, multinational corporations and even UN bodies in mobilizing support for including community and farmer rights in international law and agreements. The stakes are high, and the only real hope for successfully resisting the economic and political forcesseeking to privatize and control the seeds, plants and crops onwhich food security rests is the combined efforts of citizens andgrassroots groups committed to community rights and sustainableagriculture. That is the urgent message I brought home from theValley of 1,000 Hills.* ATPWG is part of the Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA), a coalition of nearly 200 US-based NGOs that seek a greater focus onhuman rights and economic justice in US policy toward Africa. Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN

************************************************************ THE VALLEY OF 1000 HILLS DECLARATIONWe the participants of the Conference on Community Rights held atThe Valley Trust, 1000 Hills, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, between 1 - 8 March 2002, who came from Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe, discussed the rights of local communities, and make the following declaration:1. Human beings are an integral part of the community of life on Earth. Human well-being is derived from and depends on the health of this community. Accordingly, we must ensure that human actionsdo not destroy the web of mutually enhancing relationships thatcreate the earth community.2. The human species is social and the individual cannot live a solitary existence. We, therefore, believe that the local community is essential for the survival of the human species, and local communities create and use knowledge in partnership with other life forms to meet society's basic needs of food, health, clothing and shelter.3. The Industrial system has alienated us from the rest of theearth community and is increasingly privatizing biological, landand water resources. This privatization is destroying rural localcommunities and their natural resource base.4. Many local communities have maintained an intimate relationshipwith the ecosystems on which they depend and have shared timelessconnectedness with all life. It is, therefore, fitting that thelocal community is humanity's best manager of land, water andbiodiversity. Privatisation and so-called free trade destroy this connectedness. By allowing the destruction of our local communities, we condemn other living organisms to accelerating extinction and further impoverish local communities.5. The most potent instrument in this destruction is the patentingof living organisms. The Convention on Biological Diversityrecognizes the rights of local communities and their role ingenerating agricultural bioodiversity out of wildlandbiodiversity. Yet corporations are patenting living things andincreasingly controlling agricultural production systems. Wecondemn this act as violence both to humans and to other livingthings.6. The rights of Local Communities are being threatened by genetic engineering of crops - a dangerous technology that comes with corporate control, dependence on external inputs, and the undermining of regenerative systems of agriculture and sustainable use of biodiversity.

We oppose the introduction of genetically modified organisms in agriculture and the increasing corporate control over Africa's agriculture and biodiversity.7. The world adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the precautionary principle. Because of genetic engineering's negative effects we are concerned about the pollution of food andagriculture through genetic engineering and the way thebiotechnology industry inevitably pursues its interests at theexpense of the public good. This has led to the disastrousadventurism in Mexico, where the immensely valuable diversity ofmaize, developed by local communities over thousands of years, hasbeen polluted with unintended genes from genetically engineeredmaize, some of which have not even been approved for humanconsumption. The food-base of the world's communities must beprotected from such adventurism. We call upon all governments toprovide this protection.8. Local communities have the inalienable right and responsibility to nurture, manage, exchange and further improve the biodiversity on which their livelihoods are based - for the benefit ofthemselves, ecosystems and of future generations.

This is thebasis of community rights, which cannot be made subservient to anyother right or responsibility, and includes the right to life,food, land, water, healthy environment and a decent livelihood.9. Community rights over biodiversity and indigenous knowledge arecollective in nature, and therefore cannot be privatised or individualised. Current systems of intellectual property rights applied to biodiversity and traditional knowledge are private and monopolistic in nature and therefore incompatible with community rights.10. In that context, the initiative of the World IntellectualProperty Organisation (WIPO) to develop systems for the protectionof traditional knowledge is highly inappropriate. WIPO should workto stop biopiracy that occurs because of biodiversity patents, andnot to define the rights of communities which should be done bythe communities themselves.11. Access to water is a natural and fundamental right. It is notto be treated as a commodity traded for profit. People should havethe right to freedom from thirst and should have adequate accessto safe water for their needs.12. We call on the global community to urge governments to acknowledge the community rights to land, water and biodiversity, protect them globally and initiate internationally legally binding frameworks for such protection.13. Communities over millennia evolved equitable and sustainable ways of gathering, producing and sharing food based on cooperationand partnership, to meet their food needs. The present thrusttowards corporatization of food production and distribution systems threatens the co-operative nature of communities, jeopardizes their ability to meet their food needs through culturally appropriate and equitable ways and thus destroys their sovereign right to food security.14. The African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources has been endorsed by the OAU Summitof Heads of State and Government in May 1998 in Ouagadougou andre-endorsed in July 2001 in Lusaka.

It represents the Africanposition on the protection of local community rights, farmers andbreeders' rights and the regulation of access to biologicalresources. We support this position and strongly urge all Africangovernments to take steps to implement it at the national level.15. We, therefore, urge the global community to support the implementation of the African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources and desist from any activities or policies that directly or indirectly undermine its adoption and operation by African countries.Dated this 7th Day of March, 2002.Names of Participants:Gichinga Ndirangu (Kenya); Gathuru Mburu (Kenya); Dr Jack Githae(Kenya); Vugutza Amadi (Kenya); Zachary Makanya (Kenya); DavisDdamulira (Uganda); Irene Makumbi (Uganda); Dorothy Ndaba(Botswana); Michaela Figueira (Namibia); Bernadette Lubozhya(Zambia); Emma Sitambuli (Zambia); Godfrey Mwila (Zambia); JuliusMugwagwa (Zimbabwe); Fred Zinanga (Zimbabwe); Fred Kalibwani(Zimbabwe); Kent Nnadozie (Nigeria); Jeanne Zoundijhekpon (Benin);Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Ethiopia); Sue Burnell Edwards(Ethiopia); Million Belay (Ethiopia); Dessalegn Mesfin (Ethiopia);Hailu Araya (Ethiopia); Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss (South Africa);Cormac Cullinan (South Africa); Roger Chennels (South Africa);Belinda Bowling (South Africa); Lulu Gundwana (South Africa);Elias Mkhwanazi (South Africa); Harald Witt (South Africa);Richard Haigh (South Africa); Vusie Khosa (South Africa);MohammedHaroon (Ghana); Antonieta Coelho (Angola); Henk Hobbelink (Spain);Liz Hosken (UK); Radha Hola-Bhar (India); Nico Bermudez(Colombia); Devlin Kuyek (Canada); Larry J. Goodwin (USA); CarolFriedman (South Africa); Fiona Worthington (Colombia)

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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