In this report titled ‘Integration of small-scale farmers into formal seed production in South Africa: A scoping report ‘ The African Centre for Biodiversity finds that while there is extensive reference across government policies to indigenous knowledge and biodiversity conservation, economic development, transformation, job creation, and food security, government does not consider small-scale farmer involvement in seed production a priority.
Government policy and programmes accept that multinational corporations (MNCs) control seed production and there are very few public sector efforts to integrate black small-scale farmers into commercial seed production. Nevertheless the report does outline a few projects on community seed production, indigenous crops and black-owned private sector seed production efforts. These few efforts highlight important lessons for the support of small-scale farmer seed production, including: the importance of participatory methods, with farmers driving the agenda and priorities; the importance of local level farmer organisations; integrated multi-disciplinary teams that incorporate technical expertise, extension, social and process facilitation, and cross-cultural learning; and the need for systematic awareness raising about crop and seed diversity and their nutritional, ecological and other benefits.
Centrally, the report makes a compelling case for an alternative and potentially more useful approach to support black small-scale farmer seed production within farmer seed systems (outside the formal sector), rather than trying to integrate small-scale farmers into commercial production systems where they stand little chance of competing effectively.
The report further highlights that seed laws, policies, systems, institutions and markets are already entrenched in favour of corporate interests. This means that black farmers interested in producing seed for formal markets are bound by regulations and rules that are designed to support economies of scale, plant breeders’ rights, and capital intensive production systems. The report argues that existing policies and laws will require substantial revision to enable small-scale farmers who want to produce and maintain seed to do so—without fear of criminalisation and without having to meet stringent certification and other requirements that are not appropriate for their needs or conditions. The ACB is of the view that explicit policies, programmes and associated budgets for public sector support, to build, support, extend and protect farmer seed systems and the seed diversity inherent in these systems are priorities.