CEPA, Chanco bemoan informal seed sector exclusion

Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) and Chancellor College have stressed on the need for the country’s Draft Seed Policy to incorporate the interests of the informal seed sector.

The appeal was made in Lilongwe during a two-day media orientation training on Seed Sovereignty, Food Security, Nutrition and Culture Preservation which ran from Thursday to Friday.

CEPA Executive Director, William Chadza, observed that of the two sources of seed in the country namely, formal and informal or farmer seed system, the majority of smallholder farmers access their seed from the latter system which the current Draft Seed Policy did not recognize.

“Most of our smallholder farmers, roughly about 70 percent, are using seed from the farmer seed system and this is seed which is multiplied, saved and exchanged within the smallholder farmer grouping,” explained Chadza.

“The key gap is that the current Draft Seed Policy has not been able to fully integrate the formal and informal sectors so that they can both benefit from the policy support and for the latter to improve.”

Chadza said there was need for continued dialogue and debate so that there was policy response to integrate the informal seed system and the formal which comprises seed produced by national and multinational seed companies and seed produced through various seed programs.

Chancellor College lecturers for Law and Food Security and Nutrition, Dr. Chikosa Banda, and Dr. Mangani Chilala Katundu, in their respective presentations also stressed on the need for the Draft Seed Policy to attend to the smallholder farmers’ rights in the seed industry.

Banda said it was high time Malawi domesticated the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to which the country was party.

He noted that one of the provisions in the Treaty was that member states should support the initiatives of small scale farmers in terms of developing seed production, multiplication and exchange base.

According to Banda, the current Draft Seed Policy’s major gap is that it is biased towards the formal seed sector and the policy does not adequately support the initiatives and interests of farmers in the informal sector.

“The policy explicitly says it will support the formal sector and it does not support the needs of the other systems of producing seeds in the country and yet much of the seed industry in Malawi is dependent on the seed that is produced by local farmers at local level,” explained the Chanco Law lecturer.

He added: “So if the policy ignores the 70 percent of the sources of seeds for the sector then that’s a big a problem and there is, indeed, need for further dialogue on the proposed policy.”

On the other hand, Katundu, who is also Dean of Research at Chanco and Principal Researcher in Malawi Farmer to Farmer Agro – Ecology (MAFFAE) Project, said there was need for the country to protect the rights of the farmers in the country in the area of seed production.

Katundu described the smallholder farmers’ knowledge in seed multiplication as the foundation on which the seed industry was built.

“Farmers are brilliant breeders at their level and they know what is best for them,” said Katundu, adding “It is within the farmers’ rights to participate in decision-making at national and regional level because whatever decisions that are made will affect them in one way or another.

The media practitioners at the orientation training included members of the Association for Environmental Journalists (AEJ) and the training wound up with a tour to Lobi, Dedza, where journalists appreciated a range of local varieties of crops produced by local farmers under the MAFFAE Project.

Source: Malawi News Agency – MANA