BSF Projects – Progress Update
ITPGR release, December 2013

ROME, ITALY: The 19 projects sponsored by the second round of the Benefit-Sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) are currently in implementation in 31 countries across Asia, Africa, the Near East, and Central and South America. The projects place particular importance on farmers’ traditional knowledge, their socio-cultural systems and institutions, and the role of local communities in securing access to agricultural biodiversity. Farmers are involved in the collection, characterization, evaluation and development of new varieties in crops like rice, maize, potato, wheat and barley, as well as in the compilation of information on existing crop diversity. These activities are also consistent with national strategies and priorities. The Treaty’s BSF projects also emphasize the importance of gender differentiated traditional knowledge and the adoption of gender-equitable approaches. To help secure local seed systems and facilitate sharing of information on seed development, the projects have set up Seed Clubs. Similarly, biodiversity fairs and farmer exchange visits have been taking place in Bhutan, Guatemala, India, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia and Peru, thus providing excellent opportunities for exchanging knowledge, building on established good practices and giving farmers the opportunity to showcase seed collections representative of their selection and conservation practices. Read the update …


Fifth session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
24-28 September 2013 (Muscat, Oman)

The meeting launched an intersessional Ad Hoc Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System (MLS) of Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS), which is mandated to develop measures to increase user-based payments and contributions to the Benefit-sharing Fund, as a priority, as well as “additional measures” to enhance the functioning of the MLS. Delegates described this outcome as pivotal for the future development of the Treaty, noting that the process will provide much needed direction towards enhanced implementation, in view of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Nagoya Protocol on ABS. In addition, the meeting adopted a work programme on sustainable use and a resolution of farmers’ rights that were welcomed as significant progress towards implementation; and resolved outstanding issues on compliance, rendering the Treaty’s compliance mechanism fully operational.

Farmers’ rights were the subject of intensive debate, and are addressed in the resolutions on implementation of Article 6 (sustainable use) and implementation of Article 9 (farmers’ rights). In the resolution on Article 9, the GB requested the Secretariat to: review knowledge, views and best practices, including from farmers’ organizations, to systematically derive examples as options for national implementation, as appropriate and according to national legislation, for GB 6 consideration; report on discussions related to farmers’ rights within FAO fora, including the Committee on Food Security; invite UPOV and WIPO to identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments; and facilitate support to parties in building capacity for the implementation of farmers’ rights, upon their request. Parties are invited to take the initiative to convene regional workshops on farmers’ rights, and consider: developing national action plans for the implementation of Article 9, as appropriate and subject to national legislation; reviewing and, if necessary, adjusting national measures affecting the realization of farmers’ rights; and providing financial and technical support for the implementation of farmers’ rights in developing countries, and enabling farmer organization to attend Treaty meetings.

In the resolution on sustainable use, the GB requests parties to promote, as appropriate, access of all farmers to genetic resources in the MLS and the widening of genetic diversity of crops in use. It requests the Secretariat to work with parties, networks and partners to promote the conservation and use of local and locally adapted varieties, underutilized crops and their knowledge systems, crop cultures and associated landscapes; and decides to reconvene twice the intersessional committee on sustainable use of PGRFA, to provide advice to the Secretariat on coordination of the work programme and the development of the toolbox on sustainable use, and prepare a set of options for parties’ consideration in national implementation of farmers’ rights. Visit the meeting webpage … Read the IISD Reporting Services summary and analysis of the meeting …

Realising Farmers’ Rights to Crop Genetic Resources: Success stories and best practices
Regine Andersen and Tone Winge (eds)
Routledge, June 2013 | ISBN: 978-0-415-64384-9

Launched during the fifth session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), held from 24-28 September 2013, in Muscat, Oman, this book shows the necessity of realizing farmers’ rights for poverty alleviation and food security, the practical possibilities of doing so, and the potential gains for development and society at large. It provides decision-makers and practitioners with a conceptual framework for understanding farmers’ rights and success stories showing how each of the elements of farmers’ rights can be realized in practice. The success stories have brought substantial achievements as regards one or more of the four elements of farmers’ rights: the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed; the protection of traditional knowledge; benefit- sharing; and participation in decision-making. In addition, challenges encountered on the way are conveyed and offer important lessons. The stories represent different regions and localities, including Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as various categories of stakeholders and types of initiatives and policies. Further information …

ITPGRFA: Options to Promote the Wider Application of Article 6.11 of the SMTA and the Enhance Benefit-Sharing
Legal opinion by Carlos Correa
Berne Declaration, Development Fund, July 2013

Issued on the occasion of the fifth session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), this legal opinion argues that the Treaty’s current Multilateral System (MLS) of access and benefit-sharing is unable to fulfill its objective of fair and equitable benefit-sharing. It shows that within the framework of the Treaty, parties are given some flexibility to change the standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), in order to raise the share of benefits. In particular, an increased applicability of a crop-based option, like the current Art. 6.11 of the SMTA, should play an important role in this regard. As a next step, the options will have to be double-checked by means of an economic analysis which estimates the realistic income that would be generated through a revised benefit-sharing mechanism. Download the legal opinion [pdf] …

Fifth session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
24-28 September 2013 (Muscat, Oman)

The fifth session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) will consider, among other issues, the status of implementation of the Treaty’s Multilateral System (MLS) for Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) with regard to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the standard material transfer agreement, and farmers’ rights. Delegates will also discuss: implementation of the Treaty’s funding strategy; a draft programme of work on sustainable use of plant genetic resources; and the Treaty’s relationship with other bodies and agreements, including the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Nagoya Protocol on ABS. Visit the meeting’s webpage … Read the meeting’s documents … Follow the meeting’s coverage by IISD Reporting Services …

Report on the First Round of the Project Cycle of the Benefit-sharing Fund
ITPGR Secretariat, February 2013

Published by the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), the report on the first round of the project cycle of the Treaty’s Benefit-sharing Fund contains financial and technical information related to the overall operation of the first project portfolio of the Benefit-sharing Fund; provides an overview of its results; and presents a number of lessons learned and recommendations drawn from the execution of the first round of the project cycle.

According to the report, from 2009-2011, the Benefit-sharing Fund contributed towards strengthening the capacities of more than 6,000 farmers and supported the collection of over 360 accessions of traditional varieties and crop wild relatives, as well as the characterization for useful traits of more than 2,200 accessions of varieties held on-farm and in gene banks. It contributed to ongoing activities for the identification and/or breeding of more than 270 accessions – which exhibit high yield, resistance to climate stress, tolerance to crop disease, or a combination thereof – and the distribution of locally adapted planting material to more than 1,800 farmers. Over 1,700 accessions of crops addressed by the portfolio will be made available under the terms and conditions of the Multilateral System of access and benefit-sharing of the Treaty, which is expected to multiply the Benefit-sharing Fund’s impact globally. Overall, the results of the first cycle have built a strong case for supporting the continuation of this initiative and larger scale investment in future project cycles.

Eleven projects in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Near East were funded during the first round. Project activities ranged from surveying threatened traditional crop varieties for their climate adaptability and stress resilience, and disseminating and reintroducing varieties that are best adapted to local conditions, to generating income by creating value-added products from local varieties. According to the report, low-income farming communities were the ultimate beneficiaries. Farmers were directly involved at many stages of project implementation, including in the collection of local crops and the documentation of related traditional practices, seed multiplication and distribution, and a range of awareness-raising and training activities. For example, under the framework of the project in India, 14 village-level enterprises were established, including five farmer breeder nurseries and nine women self-help groups. According to P.R. Sarrasamma, leader of a women self-help group, the project resulted in more and more women in their tribal community showing interest in cultivating traditional varieties, resulting in a revival of their identity. The community saved enough seeds for the next seasons and shared them among themselves, and started preparing their own traditional recipes and earning income. Under the Peru project, five new biocultural products based on local potato varieties were developed and are now commercialized in the Potato Park (where the indigenous communities involved in the project are based) and on local markets under the trademark of the Potato Park. Thanks to a local benefit-sharing agreement signed among the six indigenous communities, a percentage of the sales of any of the products that carry the Potato Park trademark label goes into a communal fund for Potato Park activities. In addition, the online Local Biocultural Register was created, where both traditional knowledge and scientific characterization data related to the addressed potato varieties are jointly accessible.

Both the projects in India and Peru, as well as those in Egypt, Senegal and Tanzania, have actively promoted the wider use of traditional and locally adapted varieties among farmers. Furthermore, an important feature of the project portfolio was the two-way exchange between farmers and genebanks. In the framework of the Peru project for example, 410 accessions of native potato varieties conserved ex situ by the International Potato Centre were reintroduced into the fields of the indigenous communities of the Cusco area, where they had previously been lost due to genetic erosion. Several projects, including the ones in Costa Rica, Morocco, Senegal and Tanzania, directly involved farmers in joint activities with scientific genebank personnel, to enable them to engage actively in the selection of genebank crop material that meets their local needs.

Download the publication [pdf] … Visit the Benefit-sharing Fund website …

Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons: Challenges in International Law and Governance
Michael Halewood, Isabel Lopez Noriega, Selim Louafi (eds)
Routledge, November 2012 | ISBN: 978-1-84407-893-6

The book addresses how the collective pooling and management of shared plant genetic resources for food and agriculture can be supported through laws regulating access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from their use. It provides an analysis of recent developments under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its multilateral system. It analyzes tensions that are threatening to undermine the potential of access and benefit-sharing laws to support the collective pooling of plant genetic resources, and identifies opportunities to address those tensions in ways that could increase the scope, utility and sustainability of the global crop commons. Further information …

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