Farmers in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal, demand food and seed sovereignty.

Farmers' rights

Farmers' rights consist of the customary rights that farmers have had as stewards of agrobiodiversity since the dawn of agriculture to save, grow, share, develop and maintain plant varieties, of their legitimate right to be rewarded and supported for their contribution to the global pool of genetic resources as well as to the development of commercial varieties of plants, and to participate in decision making on issues that may affect these rights. (Working definition from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Anderson, 2006.)

The four basic principles of farmers' rights are:

1. The protection of indigenous knowledge from loss and erosion.

2. Benefit sharing which rewards farmers for their contribution to maintaining crop genetic diversity.

3. Participation in decision making related to genetic resources.

4. Preserving farmers' self-determination with respect to saving, utilising, exchanging and selling seed.

Despite the government's commitment to reducing poverty and improving food security, farmers' rights - which are widely acknowledged for their positive contribution to these issues - have yet to be given recognition in South Africa.

As well as supporting small-holder farmers "on the ground", we are working to challenge the South African policy framework by engaging with stakeholders, making submissions on legislation, and producing in-depth, well researched materials and policy briefs.

Related documents


Date Title
01 Oct 2012 Policy Brief: Securing Farmers' Rights and Seed Sovereignty in South Africa [PDF]