Farmers’ rights and seed systems

Farmers’ rights and seed systems

30 May 2017. Webinar. As one of the series of GFAR webinars, GFAR Secretariat brought together several presenters to engage the agri-food research and innovation community around the topic of Farmers’ Rights, and especially how to achieve the complementarity between the informal and formal seed systems.
Complementarity between the informal and formal seed systems were approached in a holistic way. Not only do the conservation and innovation systems need to integrate the formal and informal seed systems to benefit from one another’s capacity and value added, but new policies and legal measures need to be formulated to ensure the recognition and implementation of the rights of farmers.


  • Mr. Mario Marino, Technical Officer, Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. 
  • Dr. Gloria Otieno (picture), Associate Expert, Genetic Resources and Food Security Policy; Bioversity International Regional Office in Uganda. Gloria is a Genetic Resources and Food Security Policy Specialist at Bioversity International with specialization on genetic resources policy (access and benefit sharing, farmers’ rights and treaty implementation); climate resilient seed systems; adaptation planning and food security policy development. She has exteMr. Marvin Gomez, leader in participatory plant breeding; Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran farmers.nsive experience in East, West and Southern Africa.
  • Ms. Szonja Csörgõ (picture), Director of Intellectual Property and Legal Affairs of the

    European Seed Association

  • Mr. Bram de Jonge (picture), Seed Policy Advisor at Oxfam Novib, the Netherlands. He is involved in the Sowing Diversity = Harvesting Security program. He is also a researcher at the Law & Governance Group of Wageningen University,

25 May 2017Community seedbanks: securing diversity for climate change adaptation
Bioversity International’s policy scientist Ronnie Vernooy explains to Degrees of Latitude why community seedbanks are important for farming systems’ resilience, and how they can be supported. Community seedbanks are an invaluable tool to maintain local crop diversity, and can enhance farming systems’ resilience by securing access to, and availability of, diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties.
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The basic objectives of biodiversity legislation are conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and the sharing of benefits that arise from their use.

In-kind activities supporting the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources happen in various forms and take place at national, regional or international level.

In order to find out more about the types of voluntary benefit-sharing activities the seed sector is engaged in and to view the specific projects, please select a type of activity here.

Direct financial support: In certain cases private breeders also provide direct financial support to certain activities or projects of national genebanks, conservation programs or other projects.



Fair Planet has recently completed a pilot project in Ethiopia, in which high quality tomato varieties were compared to the local variety. The trials were conducted using agronomic practices that are accessible and affordable to local smallholder farmers. High quality varieties yielded more than 5 times the average national yield. The quality of the crop was better, with bigger fruits and longer shelf life, allowing higher pricing and increasing farmers’ income. This project was financially supported by Enza Zaden.

Several seed companies (such as Limagrain Group, Enza Zaden, Syngenta, Bayer) participate in the project via providing access to existing high quality varieties and respective know-how. In return, the companies will benefit from a positive reputation, gain entrance to the African seed-market and help it grow. Eventually, they will gain access to new markets created through Fair Planet’s activity.

Baraa is a primary school with hundreds of pupils. Enza Zaden’s financial support has enabled the school to invest in an irrigation system for its kitchen garden, in which the pupils learn how to grow traditional vegetables. The garden also plays an important part in providing food for the pupils.


Eight hundred small-scale farmers in the Sengerema region on the southern shore of Lake Victoria have succeeded in increasing their vegetable production with help from the NGO Vi Agroforestry and sustainable agricultural methods. Enza Zaden also financially supports Vi Agroforestry’s second aim, which is to further develop sustainable vegetable production in Sengerema. This includes helping the farmers to adapt more effectively to climate change, for example by improving the farming system on and around their arable land with certain larger tree species. This way they can to some extent counterbalance deforestation while simultaneously generationg extra income from the sale of wood on top of that of their fruit and vegetables.
SEVIA is a project, initiated by Rijk Zwaan, East West and Wageningen University, supported by the Dutch government. SEVIA aims to contribute to the development of the vegetable industry in Africa and to food security, for example by developing and disseminating adapted technical innovations in order to enhance productivity and to increase farmers’ income and by carrying out variety testing trials to identify well adapted varieties per region.
Back in 2012, a co-operation between Germany (GIZ) and Ethiopia has been launched to improve the supply in seeds for local farmers and thereby also yields. The project has been planned for 15 years and is designed to address the following issues: sustainable use of plant genetic resources, practical plant breeding and supply of seeds of locally adapted, high-yielding local plant varieties for domestic Ethiopian demand. The project involves the education and continued training of Ethiopian plant breeders and farmers as well as the support of regional plant breeding projects.

Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) is a public-private partnership to develop drought-tolerant and insect protected maize that will be available royalty-free to smallholder farmers in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda through local seed companies. Monsanto Company has contributed germplasm and intends to eventually donate biotechnology derived proprietary traits to this project.

CEFA – Il seme della solidarietà (the seed of solidarity), located in Bologna,
is a private committee involved in projects for the sustainable development in rural areas of third countries.A specific sector of activity of CEFA is the program called: “Dal seme al cibo (from seed to food)”. Since the existence of the project there have been important Italian seed companies involved in this project who donated quantities of seeds to be sent abroad for cooperation projects in particular in Albania and Sudan.
In 2014, Monsanto Company donated breeding rights to 4 cotton lines to Institut de L’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) which is the national research organization operating the national cotton breeding program in Burkina Faso. The lines were donated to increase the genetic pool of the INERA breeding program.

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