The support for farmers-led seed systems in African seed laws
This synthesis report (PDF) by Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) compares regional and national seed laws in Africa, and analyzes the extent to which they support (or undermine) farmers’ participation in seed systems. The paper pays particular attention to how or whether these laws recognize farmers as conservers and breeders of crop varieties, and as potential multipliers and providers of seed. When seed laws only allow the establishment of the formal seed system, smallholder farmers and their seed production, exchange and sale can become marginalized or even incriminated. In essence, seed laws in 23 countries forbid the trade of unregulated seed. While seed legislation in nine countries allows for local sale and exchange within farmer-led seed systems, and exchange of farm-saved seed is allowed by two countries. Four countries allow the registration of farmers’ varieties with less stringent requirements and eight countries mention quality declared seed in their legislation. Four countries have looser registration criteria standards for local farmer seed producers. These are encouraging examples, yet the majority of national laws don’t include many (or any) provisions that recognize or aim to support farmer-led seed systems. Seed policies, which are often more recent than the seed laws in respective countries, include more recognition for farmer-led seed systems than the seed laws themselves. Still, most laws and regulations require revision in order to represent all seed systems in all diverse aspects.