Three quarters of all seeds planted in Tanzania are farm-saved seeds, while only a third are bought from the commercial seed companies. Small farmers prefer the so-called “informal” seed system because the seeds are affordable, available and reliable. Commercial seeds are expensive, only available for mainstream crops like maize and vegetables, and often found to be fake, failing to germinate when planted.
Yet the smallholder farmers are encouraged by extension staff to drop their seed saving practices and buy ‘improved’ seeds from the stockists. Government policy is focused on facilitating the seed companies to take over seed supply to the nation, with new laws and policies that support and protect the seed companies, while marginalizing small farmers’ seed-saving practice.
Tabio is working to support farmers and make their voices heard by the policy makers and donors who drive the commercial seed agenda. The farmers are calling for government to:
- Educate farmers to improve the productivity of local seeds
- Improve the QDS quality declared seed system for seed security
- Recognise that local seeds are a forgotten treasure
- Abolish the distribution of fake seeds
The farmers are calling on their local politicians and decision makers to:
- Use crop cess (local tax) to improve QDS provision
- Stop fake seeds, and compensate farmers
- Improve the farmer-managed seed system to enhance farmers' seed rights and security
- Involve farmers and recognize farmers’ views in the seed law making process
Tabio’s current work includes a comprehensive study of the farmer managed seed sector in Tanzania, organizing meetings to bring together seed savers with government officials, supporting farmers to lobby their local politicians and decision makers, and a documentary film to bring farmers' seed rights to a national audience.
The African Centre for Biodiversity have developed a collection of informative posters on seeds:
Rights of Farmers (Swahili) -Haki za Wakulima: Download here
|Farmers' rights and the seed treaty : Download here||Haki za Wakulima na mkataba wa mbegu: Pakua hapa|
|Farmer-Managed Seed Systems in Africa: Download here||Mifumo ya Mbegu Inayosimamiwa na Wakulima Barani Afrika: Pakua hapa|
|What is Plant Variety Protection (PVP) and Protected Varieties?: Download here||Ulinzi wa Aini za Mmea/ Mbegu na Aina Zinazolindwa ni Nini?: Pakua hapa|
In 2015, the Bureau for Agriculture Consultancy and Advisory Service (BACAS) of the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) were commissioned by TOAM to study Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) in Tanzania. The Study can be found here: Download here
TABIO has prepared policy briefs to inform decision makers.
Domestication of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in Tanzania (ENGLISH): Access here
Agroecology is the application of ecological science to the study, design, and management of sustainable agriculture. It offers a model of agricultural development to meet the challenge of how to feed the world sustainably. Recent research demonstrates that agroecology holds great promise for the roughly 500 million food-insecure households around the world, many of them in Africa. By scaling up the practice of agroecology, we can sustainably improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and thus contribute to feeding a hungry planet.
TABIO is working to Make the Case for Agroecology, by gathering case studies from around Africa showing the many ways that rural communities are benefitting from agroecology in increased food security, nutrition, poverty reduction, climate change adaptation, democracy and justice.
The first nine case studies are available online at http://afsafrica.org/case-studies/
Why are we doing this?
The combined effects of climate change, energy scarcity, and water shortage require that we radically rethink our agricultural systems. Countries can and must reorient their agricultural systems toward modes of production that are not only highly productive, but also highly sustainable.
The growing push toward industrial agriculture and globalization—with an emphasis on export crops, GMOs, and the rapid expansion of biofuel crops (sugar cane, maize, soybean, oil palm) is increasingly reshaping the world’s agriculture and food supply, with potentially severe economic, social, and ecological impacts and risks. Such reshaping is occurring in the midst of a changing climate expected to have large and far-reaching effects on crop productivity predominantly in tropical zones of the developing world.
Globally, the Green Revolution, while enhancing crop production, proved to be unsustainable as it damaged the environment, caused dramatic loss of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, favored wealthier farmers, and left many poor farmers deeper in debt. The new Green Revolution proposed for Africa via the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) appears destined to repeat the tragic record left by the fertilizer dependent miracle seeds, in Latin America and Asia by increasing dependency on foreign inputs and patent-protected plant varieties which poor farmers cannot afford.
The industrial food system with its dependence on fossil fuel and chemical inputs is increasingly becoming recognized as an unsustainable, inefficient and environmentally destructive way of producing the world’s food. Yet the political and economic might of the global food and agribusiness industry means that the transformation to a sustainable food system will not be easy. It will require not just a shift in technology choice but also a shift in mindset, to a place where people come before corporate profits, and where sustainability trumps corporate share price.
Ecological farming works in harmony with nature, using cultivation techniques and breeding programmes that do not rely on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or artificial genetic modifications. It builds on traditional agricultural practices using research, technology and existing indigenous knowledge, while at the same time ensuring that it is farmers that are in control of all aspects of food production. Using ecological agriculture, farmers produce abundant, healthy food sustainably.
Principles of Agroecology
- Biodiversity – Agroecology relies on and contributes to biodiversity at a genetic, species, crop and farm level.
- Integration – Crops, animals, fish and farming communities are integrated within the farming systems. This minimizes waste and the need for expensive external inputs.
- Environmental protection – Agroecology benefits the environment and does not contaminate it with toxic chemicals or genetically engineered organisms.
- Resources – Agroecology is based on biological processes and locally-available, renewable resources.
- Farmers’ control – Farmers using agroecology have control of all aspects of production, from seeds to the use of the crops. They decide what they want to grow and what is done with the crops post-harvest.
- Financially sound – Locally and often freely available resources are used in agroecology which means farmers are less dependent on access to capital or credit.
- Knowledge based – Agroecology respects and works with local culture and farmers’ knowledge and uses technology developed with and for farmers, not just technology designed to sell products. Knowledge is generated and shared between farmers, scientists and researchers.
- Equality – Agroecology values the role of women and aims to reward women equally.
- Long term – Agroecology takes a long term view. Instead of prioritizing annual monetary profits, it ensures soil, plants, animals and people benefit from a sustainable system.
TABIO has prepared policy briefs to inform decision makers:
Agroecology and Environmental Conservation (KISWAHILI): Access here
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a living organism that has had its genetic material artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This science results in the creation of rather unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and virus genes that do not occur in nature through natural cross-pollination or traditional crossbreeding methods.
TABIO contends that GMOs pose unnecessary risks to human health, destroy biodiversity, lead to increased costs for farmers, increase corporate control of the food chain, and fail to combat global hunger.
TABIO calls for the proposed field trials of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize to be scrapped. See TABIO's objection to the application by COSTECH and Monsanto for the WEMA test: Download here
The multinational seed corporations are promoting GMOs as a panacea to food insecurity and poverty in Africa. TABIO sees that the corporate promotion of GMOs has little to do with ending hunger and poverty in Africa. This is more a means to advance their agenda of enslaving African farmers into a system that will require them to purchase seeds from the corporations every year rather than save and reuse them.
TABIO is working with its members to create awareness on GMOs among farmers, consumers and policy-makers.
A scientific evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops found that GM crops:
- Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops
- Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
- Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
- Do not increase yield potential
- Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
- Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”
- Have mixed economic effects
- Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
- Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
- Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
- Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.
Based on the evidence presented they conclude there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs. http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3a.pdf
Tanzanian decision-makers are exposed to the loud claims of corporate agribusiness investors / seed companies, yet unable to hear the measured voice of the African Union, the UN, and the World Agriculture Report (IAASTD – 400 scientists, 60 countries incl Tz, 5 years) who are all calling for a shift to agro-ecological approaches. The core message of the final IAASTD report is the urgent need to move away from destructive and chemical-dependent industrial agriculture and to adopt environmental modern farming methods that champion biodiversity and benefit local communities. More and better food can be produced without destroying rural livelihoods or our natural resources. Local, socially and environmentally responsible methods are the solution. The IAASTD also concluded that such techniques as genetic engineering are no solution for soaring food prices, hunger and poverty. http://www.agassessment.org/
TABIO has prepared the policy briefs to inform policy decision makers:
Mtwara Case Study: Access here
Effects of GMOs on Society (KISWAHILI): Access here
Maintaining the Integrity of the National Biosafety Regulations (ENGLISH): Access here