Peasant Seeds: the foundation of food sovereignty in Africa
A multimedia publication released in Bamako today, 11th December 2008, captures the deep concern among West African farmers about the privatisation of seeds and knowledge.
This publication (a book and CD with audio and video links) reports back on an international workshop held in 2007, where farmers from 11 countries in West and North Africa exchanged experiences with their peers from India, Indonesia, Iran and Peru.
The book contains a transcript of the ‘Bamako Declaration’ - a call for agriculture, agricultural research and markets that reflect the needs of local farmers, farm workers and consumers, rather than those of multi-national companies.
The workshop in 2007 and this publication are the fruit of a collaboration between the Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes (CNOP), IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK) and Biodiversité Echange et Diffusion d’Expériences (BEDE).
Dr. Michel Pimbert, Director of IIED’s Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme, argues that “Locally controlled agri-food systems and agricultural research allow farmers to manage unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic change”. Furthermore, “Climate change and the current economic and financial crisis highlight the need for farmers to have direct, sovereign control over seeds and local know-how in order to design sustainable, resilient agricultural and food systems”.
The Bamako Declaration states that one way of promoting this resilience in the face of change is to encourage dialogue and the development of a common strategy through meetings between farmers from different countries.
“The Indonesian experience shows us that farmers are capable of conducting agronomic research, and that they are engaged in complex plant breeding experiments,” says Dr. Pimbert. “West African farmers are using the Bamako Declaration to promote their own vision of food sovereignty – and the basis of this vision is farmers having rights to and control over seeds”.
Farmers’ views on these issues are important at both the regional and national levels. Ibrahima Coulibaly, President of the CNOP, notes that “Mali recently adopted a Framework Agricultural law favourable to Food Sovereignty, and other West African countries are contemplating similar moves”. “In the meantime, however, multinational companies are investing heavily in the region, and new legislation on bio-safety is encouraging promotion of the biotechnologies industry.” In his view, it is imperative that “Seeds and land remain an inalienable part of family farming”.
“At the international level, these are core concerns for the Biodiversity Convention”, maintains Bob Brac de la Perrière from BEDE. “Farmers want systems that are based on their knowledge and their needs. In these times of major social and environmental change, this is crucial for the conservation and exploitation of agricultural biodiversity”.
The press conference took place at the San Toro restaurant in Bamako on December 11th 2008 at 11am.
Biodiversité: Échange et Diffusion d'Expériences
Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes