Farmer-managed seed systems, community seed banks and Farmers’ Rights – A synthesis

Rome, Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, FAO, 6 p. 

Farmer-managed seed systems are important for present and future food security, especially given the implications of climate change for agriculture. Small-scale farmers in many countries of the Global South rely on farmer-managed seed systems for their seed and propagating material and thus for their seed and food security. Nevertheless, farmer-managed seed systems are largely neglected in policies and legislation, and thus their potential contributions to food and nutrition security and management of crop genetic diversity are under-developed. Community seed banks, when well-managed, represent platforms for the development of farmer-managed seed systems and are important contributions to food security. However, policies and legislation are often not supportive of community seed banks, making it difficult for community seed banks to become financially sustainable and to scale up. Supporting farmer-managed seed systems and community seed banks through policies, laws, effective implementation and adequate financial and technical support are ways to unfold the potentials of these systems and initiatives and implement Article 9 of the Plant Treaty on Farmers’ Rights. In seeking to promote and support farmer-managed seed systems, governments and stakeholders may seek to: (1) Identify legal barriers to the development of FMSS and possibilities to remove these barriers and introduce legal measures that support and enable the development of FMSS. In this context, seed legislation is of particular importance. Also, IPR legislation is relevant. (2) Identify policies which affect the development of FMSS and detect possibilities to remove policies with negative effects and introduce policies that promote and strengthen the development of FMSS. In this context, incentive structures are particularly important. (3) Identify actions that are required to promote the development of FMSS. Here, the development of comprehensive and well-funded long-term programmes would be core. (4) Organize capacity building activities to promote the support and development of FMSS. (5) Develop platforms and arenas at the national, regional and international levels for exchanging experiences from promoting and supporting FMSS and realizing Farmers’ Rights in this regard. (6) Establish voluntary guidelines or similar tools to assist and support countries towards this end.



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