A group of Zambian farmers were vehemently opposed to the adoption of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) Arusha Protocol, an instrument which among other things aimed to provide farmers with improved varieties of plant to sustain agricultural production.
The adoption was scheduled for December 5, 2016, and the farmers were joined by a host of other stakeholders, who included church, consumer and rural women groups and development and climate change lobbyists. They appealed to President Edgar Lungu not to assent to the agreement.
“The Protocol will negatively impact on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular freely using, saving, exchanging and selling farm-saved seed and propagating material. These practices, which are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, have ensured access to and the maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves. Such diversity is key to ensuring food security, long-term sustainability and providing farmers with resilience to natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change,” read part of the signed statement released by the petitioners in Lusaka.
The statement further read: “At this critical stage, we are calling on his Excellency, President of the Republic of Zambia, the Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya and parliamentarians, not to ratify the ARIPO Arusha Protocol.”
The petitioners were Caritas Zambia, Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation – Trust (CRHC-Trust), Chongwe District Women Development Alliance (CDWDA), Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), Council of Churches Zambia (CCZ), CUTS Lusaka, East and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), Green Living Movement (GLM), Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC),Organic Producers and Processors Alliance of Zambia (OPPAZ), Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management Association (PELUM Association),Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management Zambia (PELUM Zambia), Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN), Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum (CBNRM Forum), Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA), Zambia Relief and Development Foundation (ZRDF) and Zambia Rural Women’s Assembly.
Article 2 of the Arusha Protocol read: This protocol is to grant and protect breeders’ rights while the preamble stresses the need to recognise that growers and farmers access improved varieties of plants in order to ensure sustainable agricultural productions.
However, it is article 6 dealing with conditions of protection, particularly section1 that says a ‘breeder’s right shall be grant where it is determined that a variety is new, distinct, uniform and stable’, that caused distress among Zambian farmers and lobbyists.
“This is meant to benefit seed producers and not farmers because it will become illegal to reuse seed from previous harvesting for planting the next crop,” asserted farmer, Christopher Masanduka of Chilanga, 25 kilometres south of the capital Lusaka.
Masanduka’s assertion seemed to fuel fears that multinational seed companies would seek control and ownership of seed varieties.