Farmers from various states of Myanmar called for the protection of farmers’ rights and review and amendment of the current seed law during the Peoples’ Forum on Seeds held in Napyitaw, Myanmar, November 24-25, 2014.
Entitled Diversity for Food Security, the forum aimed to raise awareness on the issues on seed security that affect farmers including current national and international regulations on farmers’ right and their access to seeds.
U San Thein, an agriculture consultant who used to work at the Department of Agriculture of Myanmar, raised the concern on the current centralized breeding program of the government and called for interaction between and among stakeholders within the seed sector.
According to U San Thein, there is a need for greater farmer participation in seed breeding. At the moment, farmers are limited to participation in evaluating few near-finished varieties just prior to their official release.
The seed certification law of Myanmar, like in most Southeast Asian countries and other developing countries, gives premium to formal breeding system, which prohibits the commercial production and sale of uncertified seeds.
However, as highlighted during one of the workshops, there is no legal protection for local/indigenous seed varieties and farmers’ access to seeds is limited. The Department of Agriculture cannot fully meet the seed demands and farmers do not know where or how to purchase seeds. Moreover, the existing seed law does not meet farmers’ needs.
Hla Myint Kaw, an organic farmer, raised the concern that the seeds being sold by local seed companies and traders have very low germination rate. This problem is compounded by inappropriate packaging labels since direction on seed packages is written either in English or Japanese, which the farmers can neither read nor understand.
Seed Fair and Field Visit
Another highlight of the two-day event is the Seed Fair, which showcased the seed diversity of Myanmar. The farmers exhibited 741 traditional and local seed varieties as well as fruits and vegetables grown in their respective farms.
On the second day of the forum, the participants visited the demonstration plots of farmers adopting organic agriculture. The organic farm they visited is being run by the Ministry of Irrigation.
The Peoples’ Forum On Seed was organized by Metta Development Foundation, one of the biggest networks of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Myanmar with the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) as co-organizer along with Caritas-Myanmar, Swiss Aid, Food Security Working Group, Paung Ku, and Kalayana Mitta Foundation (KMF.
Nori Ignacio, Executive Director of SEARICE and Mario E. Maderazo, also of SEARICE, were among the speakers during the two-day forum.