African Civil Society, Farmers Demand ARIPO Lift Blackout On Protocol Protecting Plant Varieties 20/04/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Civil society and farmers allege communication blackout from by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) about a protocol protecting new plant varieties. The 2015 protocol was highly criticised by those organisations as endangering traditional practices of African farmers. Draft regulations could not be adopted in December, but the regional organisation, according to the civil society and farmer groups, is keeping the outcome of the December meeting secret. A 11 April letter [pdf] was addressed to ARIPO Director General Fernando Dos Santos by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). In the letter, AFSA says “it has been made aware” that the ARIPO Administrative Council, which met in Harare, Zimbabwe from 5-7 December 2016 did not adopt the Draft Regulations to the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The letter indicates that the failure to adopt the draft regulations followed the concerns raised by civil society organisations and farmers, and the need for wide consultations with stakeholders. AFSA is a pan-African platform comprising networks and farmers organisations working in Africa. ARIPO describes the protocol as seeking to provide member states with a regional plant variety protection system that recognises the need to growers and farmers with improved varieties of plants in order to ensure sustainable agricultural production. Prior to the December meeting, AFSA, supported by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and civil society raised serious concerns on the upcoming adoption of the draft regulations (IPW, Africa, 2 December 2016). At that time, Hilal Elver, special rapporteur on the right to food, warned against potential harmful consequences of the draft regulations on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular the ability to freely use, save, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and propagating materiel. She called for a halt to the process in order to start anew with a more transparent, inclusive and evidence-based process. In the April letter, AFSA said they have made numerous submissions and proposals on the protocol as well as the draft regulations, and prior to the December session of the ARIPO Administrative Council, civil society organisations and farmer representatives submitted detailed comments on the draft regulations to be considered by the council. According to AFSA, those comments were “ignored” and “numerous requests” to participate in the process were denied, as was access to the December council. “It is well known that the process leading to the development of the Arusha Protocol was flawed,” the group said in the letter. “The ARIPO Secretariat facilitated participation of foreign entities, but at the same time refused to allow civil society and farmer representatives from the ARIPO region the right to engage in the process.” Requests to obtain information on the outcomes of the December Administrative Council have remained unanswered, AFSA said in the letter. The outcome of the council has not been shared with mainstream media nor posted on the ARIPO website, according to AFSA, adding that “ARIPO has imposed a communication black out.” In the letter, AFSA calls ARIPO to provide information in writing on the outcomes of the Administrative Council with regard to the Draft Regulations to the Arusha Protocol, including a copy of the minutes and decisions taken on the matter. AFSA also requests ARIPO “to immediately provide” full information in writing on the next steps that will be undertaken with regard to the protocol and its draft regulations, and to provide any further draft regulations being developed by technical committees. The letter also asks that ARIPO post all information concerning the Arusha Protocol and its draft regulations on the front page of the ARIPO website, and that a credible, transparent, and participatory process be established that involves civil society and farmer representatives. The letter was copied to the Elver, to ARIPO member states, as well as the permanent missions of ARIPO members in Geneva. ARIPO did not provide comments on the letter by press time. Agroecology as a Way Forward Separately, AFSA issued a publication in February 2017 “Agroecology: The Bold Future of Farming in Africa,” describing the benefits of agroecology for farmers. The document describes agroecology as an applied science which is based on practices such as mixed cropping, intercropping, agroforestry, and livestock integration, to design and manage sustainable agroecosystem, taking advantage of natural processes, improve farm efficiency, and reduce off-farm input use. The publication issued a call to save endangered seeds and improve farmers’ varieties through farmer-centred systems like participatory plant breeding as a way forward for African agriculture. The document also calls to “Secure the legal rights of farmers to freely save, share, exchange and sell seeds, and safeguard them from being victimised by laws that protect corporate intellectual property rights and trade in seeds.” Image Credits: Flickr – Global Justice Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."African Civil Society, Farmers Demand ARIPO Lift Blackout On Protocol Protecting Plant Varieties" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.