Not many of us have even heard about ARIPO – The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation. Yet the decisions made by this regional organisation will affect all Zambian citizens.
Seeds are a source of life, and the basis of our food systems. For generations farmers have been carefully selecting and developing seeds to suit each particular and different farming context.
Today, multinational seed companies, with the backing of their foreign governments, see the money to be made in controlling and owning seeds. Once seeds are controlled, much of the rest of the food system can be controlled.
The ARIPO Arusha Protocol on the Protection of New varieties of Plants (adopted by member states in July 2015), aims at providing such control for multinational seed companies. Worse, are the regulations for the implementation of the Arusha Protocol, that discriminate against small scale farmers, targeting them unnecessarily with substantial fees and policing mechanisms.
Our own Zambian ARIPO representatives, together with regional governments, will meet on 5 – 8 December in Harare to adopt the regulations. All farmers and civil society representatives have been blocked from entry to this secretive and decisive meeting.
Regional Protocol will undermine national food security and increase malnutrition
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has expressed deep concern regarding the “considerable negative impacts that the Protocol and its Draft Regulations may have in relation to fulfilling the right to food in ARIPO Member State countries”.
“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 practises, 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”.
All farmers and civil society representatives have been blocked from entry to this secretive and decisive meeting.
In Zambia, civil society organisations and farmers have continuously expressed serious objections to the Arusha Protocol, and requested our leaders oppose this discriminatory process that will negatively affect the majority of Zambian citizens. We are very distressed to learn that instead, Zambia has been strongly involved in the process, through its position of Chair of the negotiations for the 2016 period.
ZAABCs specific concerns include;
• The Arusha Protocol is based on the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991, a most inappropriate model for the establishment of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) regimes in developing countries. Zambia already has its own advantageous National PVP Protocol that will be undermined should Zambia sign and ratify the Arusha Protocol.
• There is serious failure to safeguard farmers’ rights and farmer seed systems. This is despite that 70% of the region’s food is produced by small scale farmers, whose vibrant germ plasm continues to be used by researchers and is the basis of our national food sovereignty.
• The Protocol advances a centralised harmonised regime that undermines the sovereign rights of Member States.
• The Protocol facilitates biopiracy (the stealing) of local farmer varieties.
• The Protocol undermines implementation of international treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agricultural (ITPGRFA) as well as various international instruments on farmer rights and traditional systems.
At this critical stage, Zambian civil society and farmers call out to His Excellency, President of the Republic of Zambia, and newly appointed Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Members of Parliament, to stand up for the farmers and consumers of Zambia, and NOT sign or ratify the ARIPO Arusha Protocol. We secondly call for our Zambian representatives at the ARIPO meeting to object to the adoption of the Regulations for its Implementation.
Signed by civil society members of ZAABC:
1. Caritas Zambia
2. Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation – Trust (CRHC-Trust)
3. Chongwe District Women Development Alliance (CDWDA)
4. Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT)
5. Council of Churches Zambia (CCZ)
6. CUTS Lusaka
7. East and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)
8. Green Living Movement (GLM)
9. Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR)
10. Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC)
11. Organic Producers and Processors Alliance of Zambia (OPPAZ)
12. Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management Association (PELUM Association)
13. Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management Zambia (PELUM Zambia)
14. Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN)
15. Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum (CBNRM Forum)
16. Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA)
17. Zambia Relief and Development Foundation (ZRDF)
18. Zambia Rural Women’s Assembly