JOINT SUBMISSION: RWA South Africa, Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) and the Inyanda National Land Movement

Since the publication of the SA Plant Improvement Act (No. 11) of 2018 (PIA) and the Plant  Breeders’ Rights Act (No. 12) of 2018 (PBR) by the Department of agriculture, Land Reform and  Rural Development (DALRRD) the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) and the Inyanda National Land Movement has been deeply concerned and are uncertain how these laws  would be implemented and its impact on smallholder farmers. 

In our reading of these two Acts, they primarily protect and promote the interest of industrial  agriculture, homogenous seeds and monocropping and prioritise profit over food security. Our  concerns are that this may have severe implications for historically impoverished black  people who have been marginalised for nearly four hundred years of colonialism, and who continue  to experience landlessness, inequality, poverty, malnutrition, hunger and unemployment, despite the transition to parliamentary democracy and political majority rule. Our concern is that the PIA and PBR would indeed increase existing inequalities, in both the agricultural  and food sectors. 

The nature and extent of our work over the years has motivated us to make this collective  submission to the DLRRD regarding the Regulations to Implement the PIA and PBR. This is a  continuation of the work and campaigns that we, together with many others in civil society  organisations and social movements in South Africa (and indeed across the world), have been engaged in over the years to promote and protect farmer managed seed systems (FMSS). FMSS are dynamic systems based on indigenous or creole genetically heterogenous open pollinated  varieties such as landraces, heirlooms, wild species/relatives.  

Regarding seeds, for example, the requirement that seeds must be certified in order to be sold  in the market would result in smallholder famers and small seed enterprises having to comply  with the new laws on the same basis as industrial agriculture companies, placing barriers for  them to enter the seed market and being prosecuted should they reuse and share Open  Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) that are protected by law, unless they use the OPVs only for private  and non-commercial use in their own households. Thus, we waited anxiously for the publication  of the Regulations to accompany the PIA and PBR.  

In our opinion the Regulations published in June 2022 provide some space and assurance for  the FMSS to continue to exist, with some rights to reuse, exchange and trade/sell seeds.  However, we also think that there was not enough consultation with smallholder farmers and  some elements are missing to realise the rights of smallholder farmers, including rights  pronounced in several international agreements signed by the SA government.  

In this respect we want to specifically highlight that RWA has recently become involved in monitoring and promoting the implementation by the SA government of the 2018 United  Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural areas  (UNDROP), for which the SA government voted in favour. RWA has made formal submissions  (both written and oral) to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the UN Human Rights  Council. One of RWA’s focus was on the UN UNDROP’s Article 19 (the right to seeds and  protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture  focus), which is essential to meet Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) of the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs). Amongst the targets of Goal 2 we want to highlight: “By 2020, maintain the genetic  diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals ……, including  through sound management and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and  international levels”. 

In a questionnaire undertaken by RWA SA in 2021 in five SA provinces amongst some of its  members (our sample was small, 76 women interviewed) 68% indicated they were able to  feed their families with their produce using some of their “most precious seeds” (e.g.,  spinach, tomatoes, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, watermelons etc). In their opinion, their  seeds are “precious”, because they “are nutritious, healthy, provide vitamins, easy to grow,  adapted to our climate conditions, are delicious, have healing properties, quenches the  thirst”, and have many usages (“food, income, can cook many traditional dishes, can eat the  vegetables, leaves and seeds”).  

RWA South Africa appreciates the opportunity to join our voices with those of TCOE, the Inyanda National Land Movement as well as other civil society organisations in contributing to shaping public policy and on submitting comments to the Regulations we trust the DALRRD will consider them in a positive light before finalising these Regulations.  To the joint submission, please click here.

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