The Protection and Promotion of Farmers’ Rights in East Africa

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The importance of plant genetic resources and the need to conserve and sustainably utilize them has been the subject of many regional and international discussions in the last two and a half decades. The thrust of these discussions has centered not only on the modalities of ensuring that these resources are utilized in a sustainable manner but also the need to reward those who have helped nurture and made them available to successive generations. The adoption of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture represents an international consensus that the protection and promotion of farmers’ rights is one way through which countries can achieve the above objectives. The recognition of farmers’ rights by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the need by member countries to fulfill their obligations has given policy makers a lot of challenges. These challenges mainly revolve on the available policy options for realization of these rights at the national and regional level. In East Africa, where the concept of Farmers’ Rights is new, where majority of the people are illiterate farmers, and where poverty is getting to alarming levels, the implementation of these rights presents peculiar challenges. This paper identifies and addresses some of the major challenges in implementation of farmers’ rights within East Africa’ s social, political, economic and cultural context. The paper is premised on the understanding that the first step in realizing these rights lies in promoting awareness among the different stakeholders about the concept of Farmers’ Rights. The concept of farmers’ rights is new to many stakeholders in the region including the policy makers who are charged with the responsibility of their implementation. The paper therefore goes at length to explain the concept of Farmers’ Rights including tracing it’s origin and evolution. The concept is summarized as based on conservation concerns and equity considerations. It is premised on the fact that rewarding the world farmers for their contribution to agro-biodiversity provides them the incentives to continue nurturing, sustainably utilizing and making available these resources for future generations. It is emphasized that the concept entails the recognition and protection of many rights, the major ones being: the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources; equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use; participation in decision making processes touching on the conservation and sustainable use of these resources and the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm saved seed/propagating material of farmers’ varieties.