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The state of Farmers' Rights in Peru

Peru is a centre of origin and diversity of important food crops, such as potato, and a country where traditional farming practices coexist with modern and intensive farming. This poses various challenges whith regard to understanding and, especially, implementing these rights at the national level. Various perceptions and limited awareness about the implications of Farmers' Rights pose an additional challenge. However, Peru has made some progress, particularly in the area of public policies and laws oriented towards the protection of traditional knowledge and seeking to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources.

Most concerns at present focus on the impacts that a seed certification system and new plant breeders' rights may have on traditional saving and use of seeds and propagating material by campesinos and native communities. Farmers' Rights appear to be an important tool for small-scale farmers and native communities to ensure the legitimacy of the traditional practices of saving, reusing and exchanging seeds.

In a study written by Manuel Ruiz Muller, Director of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, and published by the Farmers' Rights Project in 2006, the state of Farmers' Rights and prospects for their further implementation in Peru is analyzed. The following text is the executive summary from the report.

Farmers' Rights in Peru: executive summary from a case study by Manuel Ruiz Muller (2006)

This case study provides an overview of the state of Farmers' Rights in Peru in terms of public policies, legislation and specific projects. Stakeholder perceptions on the contents and prospects of the realization of Farmers' Rights are compiled as a basis for conclusions with regard to options for Peru. Finally, recommendations with regard to the role of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are presented.

Chapter 1 describes the social and economic situation for agriculture in Peru. It offers factual data and information on the different types of agriculture (small, medium and large scale) and identifies some of the key features of each. As a centre of origin and diversification of potatoes and a range of other crops, Peru is in a situation where highly productive, high input-based, intensive, export-oriented agriculture coexists with small plot, subsistence, diversified and extensive farming practices, especially in the Andean region. The small campesino farmers and native farming communities in the Amazon and the Andes are the main conservers of genetic diversity, native crops and their wild relatives.

Following this description of the general situation for agriculture in Peru, Chapter 2 analyses the state of Farmers' Rights in the country. Peru has made considerable progress in some of these areas. A series of laws and regulations address the protection of traditional knowledge. Most importantly, Law 27811 for the Protection of Collective Knowledge of Indigenous People is a milestone in this regard. The right to participate in the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from access to and use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture has been recognized in a series of laws and regulations. Most importantly, specific projects which involve accessing and using farmers' seeds and genetic resources and their related traditional knowledge, have incorporated benefit sharing conditions and commitments. These arrangements have, however, so far not resulted in any benefit sharing. Participation in decision-making processes has also progressed through the involvement of campesinos and small-scale farmers (represented through their organizations) in the drafting of and consultations on specific acts of legislation. Finally, the right to save and use seeds is also recognized by national law (Decision 345 on a Common Regime on the Protection of the Rights of Breeders). The recent commitment to adhere to UPOV 1991 (as part of the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement) may impact on the future recognition of this right.

Chapter 3 provides an overview of the perceptions of various stakeholders pertaining to Farmers' Rights. Individuals from the private sector, NGOs, public officials, etc. express their opinions regarding the actual content, relevance and implementation of Farmers' Rights in Peru. Clearly, there is still limited understanding regarding the scope and implications of these rights in the context of the FAO International Treaty. Most striking is the very wide range of perceptions about what exactly the term Farmers' Rights mean and imply. As a general conclusion of the report, Farmers' Rights appear to be a very important tool for farmers (especially campesinos and native communities) to ensure the legitimacy of the traditional practices of saving, reusing and exchanging seeds. Though at present there seems to be little evidence regarding limitations to this right, promotion of the use of modern varieties, strengthening of the seed certification system and consolidating plant breeders rights could certainly affect traditional farming practices in the near future and, ultimately, impact on indigenous as well as campesino cultures and livelihoods, genetic diversity and conservation in general. Derived from the CBD, the protection of traditional knowledge and sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources also appear to be key concerns of policy development and implementation in the country. This is the area where, arguably, most progress has been made over the years. However, it turns out that the implementation of these policies has not necessarily been conducive to the realization of Farmers' Rights, as they contain disincentives for the sharing of seeds and propagating material among farmers and have produced hurdles for the conservation of agrobiodiversity. Thus, an important challenge is to correct the direction of these policies to support the realization of Farmers' Rights and the implementation of the International Treaty.

Awareness raising regarding Farmers' Rights among a wide range of stakeholders and the implementation of the National Agrobiodiversity Program and Action Plan would be further points of departure for a national strategy to strengthen and consolidate efforts to implement Farmers' Rights. This should be complemented by the creation of incentives to promote the use and consumption of native and local crops, which would be particularly important for campesinos and native communities, as these have so far been excluded from the credit systems and thus options to strengthen their productive systems. Finally, potential conflicts between Constitutional provisions recognizing the right to a cultural identity - and the impacts a system such as UPOV 1991 may have on cultures - is a matter which will require further analysis and debate.

The Governing Body of the FAO International Treaty could play an instrumental role in instructing potential donors to support activities targeted at implementing Farmers' Rights. Furthermore, the Governing Body should define the specific scope of Farmers' Rights within which the respective provisions of the International Treaty are to be implemented at the national level. In this context, there is also a need to address the risks of implementing provisions of the CBD in ways that are detrimental to the protection and promotion of farmers' rights under the International Treaty, as shown in the case of Peru. Finally, the Governing Body should develop mechanisms which ensure that the benefits derived from access to and use of genetic resources are effectively shared with small scale farmers.

Download full-text version (PDF) of the case study:
Muller, Manuel Ruiz: The Farmers' Rights Project – Background Study 3: Farmers' Rights in Peru – A Case Study. FNI Report 5/2006. Lysaker, FNI, 2006, 109 p.

Read more:
   Legislation pertaining to Farmers' Rights in Peru
   Success stories from the realization of Farmers' Rights in Peru in terms of the protection of traditional knowledge and equitable benefit sharing.

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