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What are successes regarding participation in decision making?

A fourth measure to protect and promote Farmers' Rights, as suggested in the International Treaty, concerns the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (Article 9.2 [c]). Also here, the Treaty fails to provide specific details as to what this might mean in practice.

To operationalize this measure, we need to specify the relevant matters in which farmers have the right to participate. Also the forms of participation should be specified.

First of all, the implementation of Farmers' Rights under the International Treaty is a matter of where farmers' participation would logically be required - at the national as well as international level. Consultative processes of various kinds are relevant, and the better represented farmers are, the greater legitimacy the results would have, and the more likely it is that they will constitute effective measures for the realization of Farmers' Rights. In particular, it would be important that farmers involved in the management of plant genetic diversity participate in such processes, since they constitute the main target group of the International Treaty. So far there have been no known cases of comprehensive consultative processes to mainstream and improve legislation and policies towards the realization of Farmers' Rights. However, there are several examples of processes related to single acts of legislation.

The development of laws and regulations related to the management of plant genetic diversity in agriculture is clearly relevant for farmers' participation. Central laws and regulations are seed acts; seed certification regulations; other regulations regarding seed distribution and trade; plant variety protection laws; patent laws; bioprospecting laws or regulations; laws on the conservation and sustainable use of bio-diversity in general or crop genetic resources in particular (also regarding specific crops); and legislation on the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge. But also legislation regulating mainstream agriculture is relevant, as these may produce incentive structures which are detrimental to Farmers' Rights, without any compensating measures. Extensive use of hearings at various stages in the process is an important measure to ensure participation. It is particularly important to ensure that farmers engaged in the management of plant genetic diversity are aware of the processes, and are explicitly invited to participate through their organizations.

The implementation of laws and regulations is also relevant to farmers' participation. The ways in which these are interpreted and implemented are often decisive to the effects on farmers' management of these resources and thus also on their livelihoods. Normally, boards and institutions are established through such acts and regulations, to oversee and/or administer implementation. Farmers' representation and participation in such bodies is thus central, and here the process by which farmer members are selected is of crucial importance. If they are appointed by a cabinet minister, for example, they can hardly be said to represent the farmers of that country. If appointed by farmers through their own organizations, it is more likely that they can be regarded as true representatives of farmers - depending on the share of farmers they represent and the process by which they were appointed. Again it is vital to ensure the representation of farmers actually engaged in agro-biodiversity conservation. There are few typical success stories in this regard, if any.

Developing policies and programmes in agriculture, particularly as related to the management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, requires farmer participation. Ideally, policies and programmes targeted at farmers should take farmers' situations and perspectives as points of departure, based on their participation. There are probably examples of such participation, but no cases have been reported to us.

There are two important preconditions for increased participation of farmers in decision-making. First, decision-makers need to be aware of the important role played by farmers in conserving and developing plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, in order to understand why their participation is central. Second, farmers are often not in a position to participate effectively in complicated decision-making processes without prior capacity-building. Central measures in this context are thus awareness-raising among decision-makers on the role of farmers in agro-biodiversity management, and capacity-building in farmers' organizations. Whereas there are few examples of the former, there are probably more of the latter.

Pages in this sub-section:
   What are successes regarding the right to save,use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed?
   What are successes regarding traditional knowledge related to agro-biodiversity?
   What are successes regarding benefit sharing?
   What are successes regarding participation in decision making?
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 In this section:
  What is a 'success story' of FR?
  Success stories from the realization of the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed
  Success stories on traditional knowledge related to agro-biodiversity
  Success stories on benefit-sharing measures
  Success stories on participation in decision making
  Common features

Photo: Pratap Shrestha, Nepal