Assures Inclusiveness in Harmonisation of Seed Laws in the Region
a meeting held on Friday, April 5, 2013 with representatives from
Civil Society organisations promoting ecologically sound agriculture
and biological diversity, COMESA gave an assurance that the Seed Trade
Harmonisation Regulations will be subject to wider consultations with
the citizens and relevant stakeholders in the member states before
the regulations are finalised. This follows concerns raised by small-scale
farmers and Civil Society organisation (CSO) representatives who attended
a two-day workshop organised by the Alliance for Commodity Trade in
Eastern and Southern Africa (a Specialised Agency of COMESA) at Protea
Hotel on 27 and 28 March, 2013.
Submissions made by Civil Society and small-scale farmer representatives,
contained in a statement to the workshop highlighted the need for
the process to involve key stakeholders in the farming community so
that they can also have their input taken into account as they would
be directly impacted by the Regulations. The CSO representatives called
for transparency and an inclusive process with regard to the drafting
of the Regulations. A particular concern highlighted was ensuring
protection of the rights of small-scale farmers by way of the inclusion
of a clause that would explicitly state that the Regulations would
not preclude, prohibit or inhibit farmers from sharing, exchanging,
saving and replanting their traditional seeds for the conservation
and development of plant genetic resources. It was also emphasised
that the proposed Regulations should enable COMESA states to retain
their sovereign rights and responsibility to require and implement
additional safeguards (including national testing of seed when deemed
necessary) in accordance with respective national laws.
To this end, ACTESA informed the participating Civil Society organisations
that it is organising a stakeholders meeting due to take place in
Lusaka in April 2013 as part of the efforts to engage stakeholders
at national level. The Lusaka meeting is designed to offer an opportunity
for key seed stakeholders to submit their views and perspectives on
the draft Regulations.
according to the organisation, is important in terms of enhancing
the relevance of the proposed Regulations, promoting ownership and
also ensuring that farmers groups are properly informed of the Regulations
and its implications.
Secretary General of COMESA, Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya said that small-
scale farmers will be provided with a chance to express their views
on the Regulations. “The document has to reach the small-scale farmers
and all stakeholders”, he added.
In response to concerns by Civil Society organisations that the Regulations
may pave way for commercial planting of Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMOs) in the region, Mr. Ngwenya stated that COMESA did not have
a policy on GMOs.
Furthermore, the Secretary General indicated that the organisation
stands to promote initiatives aimed at increasing productivity of
agriculture as a whole by discouraging mono-cropping and dependence
on staple foods and support farming systems that maximise the use
of locally available resources to increase yields, among other efforts.
He also bemoaned the current state of agriculture extension services
in most of the countries in the COMESA region, a situation which he
said should be changed by investing in small-scale farmer focused
extension services and appropriate technologies that would also reduce
the burden of farming on the women folk.
During the meeting, Mr. Ngwenya said support by the regional body
to small-scale farmers and sustainable farming practices, through
initiatives aimed at scaling up sustainable organic farming in selected
countries within the region is welcome.
In conclusion, Mr Ngwenya intimated that COMESA was a people’s organisation
and its doors were open for constructive dialogue and practical collaboration
to resolve developmental challenges facing the member states. The
Secretary General added that COMESA would support efforts by Civil
Society that are aimed at documenting viable development practices
that would stimulate action from the people and take Africa forward.
In an earlier meeting, according to the Chief Executive Officer of
ACTESA, Mr. Argent Chuula, lack of availability of quality seed was
a key problem facing majority of small-scale farmers in the COMESA
Ministers of Agriculture at their meeting in Seychelles, March, 2008
are said to have directed COMESA Secretariat to expedite the harmonisation
of seed trade regulations and standards to facilitate regional trade
in the seed sector. In October, 2010, COMESA through ACTESA, begun
the process of harmonisation in three technical areas, namely regional
seed certification, regional variety release system and regional quarantine
pest list procedures.
The Civil Society organizations represented are encouraged by the
discussions with the COMESA Secretariat and hope that the Secretariat
will undertake extensive consultations with CSOs and the farming communities
on the drafting of the Regulations.
Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN)