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“Zambia’s Battle for Seed Sovereignty”

…ZAAB challenges corporate dominance and protects farmers’ rights

By Francis Maingaila

Lusaka, Zambia24 (20-04-2024) – The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) criticizes the Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) for favoring the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) over farmers’ interests, particularly evident in the proposed Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) Bill. This alignment with UPOV standards raises concerns about increased corporate dominance in seed and food systems, potentially threatening Zambia’s food sovereignty and agro-biodiversity.

During a press conference, Vladimir Chilinya, ZAAB’s Chairperson, highlighted the risks associated with the PBR Bill, especially within the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and its intellectual property protocol.

He emphasized potential consequences, such as privatization of land and seeds, centralizing genetic resources and agri-food markets under corporate control, disadvantaging small-scale farmers, and jeopardizing their livelihoods.

Chilinya cautioned against reliance on patented seeds, which could increase costs and reduce autonomy, while also noting the environmental impact of corporate-controlled agricultural practices such as monoculture farming and extensive pesticide use.

Furthermore, Chilinya underscored the disproportionate influence of a few corporations on food prices and availability, potentially affecting vulnerable communities.

He warned that privatization of land and seeds, coupled with corporate monopolization, could exacerbate inequality, endanger biodiversity, and compromise food security and sustainability.

To address these challenges, ZAAB advocates for sustainable food systems through initiatives like seed banks, fairs, and festivals, stressing the importance of seed sovereignty and empowering farmers to save, exchange, and utilize seeds while safeguarding local knowledge and enhancing agricultural resilience.

Moreover, the organization calls for dialogue on Farmers’ Rights and the development of a comprehensive legal framework to fulfill Zambia’s obligations under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

ZAAB urges government intervention to protect National Food Sovereignty and cautions against legislation that could weaken local seed industries and limit policy options for a sustainable green economy.

Chilinya stated that ZAAB’s critique of SCCI’s alignment with UPOV’s agenda reflects concerns about the potential impacts on Zambia’s food sovereignty and agro-biodiversity conservation.

Through advocacy efforts and awareness campaigns, the organization aims to promote resilient and sustainable Zambian food systems while addressing food security and structural poverty.

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