African farmers call for sovereignty over traditional seeds

Farmers from across West Africa will raise concerns about the privatisation of traditional knowledge and seed varieties in a multi-media publication launched in Bamako, Mali this week (11 December).

The publication — a book and CD with linked audio and video clips — is the report of a meeting last year at which farmers from eleven West and North African nations shared experiences with counterparts from India, Indonesia, Iran and Peru.

It includes ‘The Bamako Declaration’, a call for farming, agricultural research and markets to reflect the needs of local farmers, food workers and consumers ahead of those of large corporations.

The 2007 meeting and the publication being launched next week resulted from a collaboration between the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), CNOP (Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes) and BEDE (Bibliotheque d’ Echange et Diffusion d’Experiences).

"Local control over food systems and agricultural research helps build farmers’ resilience to change," says Dr. Michel Pimbert, director of the sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihoods programme at IIED. "Climate change as well as today’s economic and financial crisis make it ever more important that farmers have sovereign control over seeds and the local knowledge needed to design sustainable and robust food and farming systems."

The Bamako Declaration says one way to promote this resilience is for farmers from different settings to meet to share knowledge and develop joint strategies.

"Experience from Indonesia shows that farmers can do research themselves directly in the fields and take part in sophisticated crop breeding experiments," says Pimbert. "West African farmers are using the Bamako Declaration to further develop their vision of food sovereignty in which farmers rights and direct control over seeds is key."

The farmers' views have national and regional importance. "Mali recently adopted a national policy of food sovereignty and there are moves to do the same elsewhere in West Africa," says Ibrahima Coulibaly, President of the CNOP. "But at the same time multinational corporations are investing heavily in the region and new biosafety legislation on genetically modified seeds is far too industry friendly."

"At the international level, these concerns are central to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity," says Bob Brac de la Perriere from BEDE. "Farmers are demanding systems that are based on their knowledge and needs. This will be key to efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity and use it to build resilience to environmental and social change."

The press conference will be held on 11 December at 11.00 in Bamako at the restaurant – cultural centre: 'Le San Toro'. Tel: +223 72213082

Contact

For CNOP:
Ibrahima Coulibaly, President of CNOP, +223 72287415 and 7272 34 88
Malamine Coulibaly Project Director at CNOP. Tel: +223 7603 01 57

For COPAGEN
Mamadou Goita
Tel: +223 76749771

For IIED
Dr Michel Pimbert
Tel +44 7525069061

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