Greenpeace Africa and Seed Savers Network have called for the amendment of the Plant Varieties Act, Cap 326 of 2012, to allow the sale, exchange and sharing of indigenous seeds in Kenya.
The legislation, it is understood, punishes offenders with a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to Sh1,000,000 or both.
According to the nonprofits, smallholder farmers across the country have been severely impacted by the law that prohibits farmers from sharing, exchanging or selling uncertified and unregistered seeds.
‘The government has failed in its obligation of enacting laws to protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and intellectual property rights in indigenous knowledge on seeds in Kenya’, Greenpeace Africa’s Campaigner, Claire Nasike, said.
‘The current seed laws reinforce neo-colonialism and potentially give big multinationals, big business and profit-driven entities a free leeway to pirate local resources’.
The law, which was first introduced in 1972 and last amended in 2012, seeks to guide the regulatory process of seed release, certification, and production in the country.
It aims to control the importation of seeds, authorise measures to prevent injurious cross-pollination, and also provide for the grant of proprietary rights to persons breeding or discovering and developing new varieties.
However, smallholder farmers and civil society organisations claim the law has rather favoured large corporations at the expense of small-scale farmers who account for about 75 percent of the country’s total agricultural output.
‘Such draconian seed laws have paved the way for a neo-colonial capitalistic culture of exploiting farmers to thrive – by encouraging corporate control on seeds and the food system in Kenya’, Nasike added.
‘These punitive laws will limit the farmers’ ability to grow their desired, nutrient-dense, locally available crops leading to a loss in the food diversity from farm to plate’.
For his part, the Advocacy Officer at Seed Savers Network, Dominic Kimani, faulted the law.
‘Seeds are part of our cultural heritage and are the most crucial input in farming. Small-scale farmers have over the years improved various crops through selection, seed saving and sharing’, Kimani said.
Kimani also said that seed custodians and breeders should be supported by the government by enacting laws that protect them.
Photo source: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre