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Open Source Seed Systems

Open Source Seed Systems

Aim

To increase the availability of nutritious and climate-resilient seeds and to ensure farmers have freedom of choice by preventing exclusive or monopolistic rights on knowledge and genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Where

East Africa and Southern Africa

Why

Seed diversity, crucial for food security and nutritious diets, is decreasing dramatically as industrial agriculture intensifies. Commercial patenting of seed varieties eradicates traditional seed-saving and sharing practices and diminishes the gene pool. Another threat comes from changing climate conditions for which seeds are not resilient, resulting in harvests lost to drought, floods, pests and diseases. Only a handful of organizations dominate the global seeds market, shutting farmers out. If we want more choice at the marketplace and healthier diets, farmers must have access to diverse, robust and adaptive seeds that will produce a wide variety of crops in different or changing climates.

How

The OSSS program works with breeders, farmers and through multi-stakeholder initiatives to develop open source seed systems based on protected commons for seed varieties instead of exclusive intellectual property rights. This means that farmers and breeders are free to use the seed and any of its derivatives. The program strengthens social seed enterprises that guarantee farmers access to affordable, climate resilient seeds, allies small holder farmers with willing policy makers and small and medium enterprises to govern the seed sector, and advocates for enabling government policies. It also uses strong communication campaigns to create policy changes through public pressure.

Results so far

The program is successfully running in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. With its support, ten seed enterprises have helped smallholder famers become serious market players and attract investment support. OSSS has brought 2,000 farmers climate resilient genetic material for beans, sorghum and millet, which are now new varieties in use. We are creating a digital exchange platform for patent-free seeds with 40,000 farmers, researchers and seed inspectors. Multi-actor meetings are formulating recommendations on how to make current policies less exclusive and punishing (e.g. so farmers are not criminalized for selling non-certified seeds). These are being jointly developed by government, NGOs and farmer groups.

Period and budget

2016-2020, USD 610,000

Partners

Benefit Sharing Fund of the FAO Plant Treaty (donor), OSF (donor), Biodiversity International