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Government has been urged to come up with legislation that recognises the rights of smallholder farmers to save, use and freely exchange indigenous seed varieties to boost yields, agricultural experts say.

Speaking at a workshop to evaluate seed, food and nutrition security issues affecting the country in Harare yesterday, veteran agronomist and Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) director Mr Andrew Mushita said Zimbabwe needed to pass the laws in line with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) which the country signed and ratified.

“So far, we have the national food and nutrition security policy to address the issue of food as a fundamental right and Government needs an appropriate legislative framework to achieve the progressive realisation of farmers’ right to save, use and exchange their own seed,” he said.

“There is need for harmonisation of seed laws to allow the growth of farmers’ own seed varieties which are tolerant of drought and climatic change.”

Plant breeding and seed sales are now dominated by multinational agro-chemical and pharmaceutical corporations pushing on-farm seed production by smallholder farmers to the margins.

Mr Mushita said local crop diversity, especially traditional seed, was fundamental for agricultural production and food security in the wake of the devastating effects of climate change.

“Smallholder farmers in Africa share and save about 80 percent of the seed they use for food crops compared to a world average of 35 percent,” he said.

Source : The Herald