The Farmers' Rights Project - Background Study 5: Farmers' Rights in Ethiopia - A Case Study

FNI Report 7/2006. Lysaker, FNI, 2006, 64 p.

Ethiopia is an agrarian country with 85% of its population deriving their livelihood from small scale agriculture. It is also one of the centres of diversity and origin of agricultural crop genetic resources to which farmers’ role and activities are strongly linked. Farmers therefore, play an important role in the agricultural sector of the country, and their varieties serve as major sources of planting materials. The role of farmers and the importance of their varieties were for the first time officially recognized with the National Seed Industry Policy in 1992. Various policies that recognize farmers’ and community rights have been formulated since then. This study highlights perceptions of different stakeholders, the achievements made, and existing barriers and opportunities regarding the implementation of farmers’ rights in Ethiopia. It also proposes possible measures to be taken at the global level. The study reveals that development of various legislative measures to implement the formulated policies is lagging, and the level of awareness among various stakeholders regarding the issues of farmers’ or community rights is still found to be rather low. For these reasons, and because it involves diverse social, economic and cultural elements, the realisation of farmer rights is a challenging task in the Ethiopian context. To overcome the challenges at the national level, concerted support from the international community through the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is critically important. The international community should support efforts to minimize the serious problems of erosion of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture which takes place in almost all countries. This requires clear commitments by states and intergovernmental actors to protect and support farm communities in order to ensure universal food security for the present and the future.