|Number 3||May 1999|
A few sources of inspiration on biodiversity
The Nayakrishi Andolan (Bangladesh)
The Nayakrishi Andolan (New Agricultural Movement) of peasants in Bangladesh strives to promote community knowledge around local plant resources in an attempt to secure food security. The movement highlights the importance of wild uncultivated plants, which play a major role in the survival of poor and marginal population when agricultural productions fail. Special attention is paid to women's knowledge on wild foods and their know-how in food preparation, which are recognized as closely linked to the preservation of biodiversity.
Mahila Sangams (India)
In a semi-arid area of Andhra Pradesh, village women belonging to the most marginalised sections of society, the Dalits, have constituted themselves in groups to collectively address issues of local food security, land erosion, and loss of seed diversity. The association Deccan Development Society provided some initial support to the Mahila sangams (Women’s group) who decided to put some fallow land back into cultivation, to start seed farms for indigenous varieties of millets and sorghum and to revive the old village graneries. In this initiative, biodiversity conservation is truly practiced "on-farm", and it is linked to a broader process of agrarian change where communities regain some level of direct control over their resource and livelihood.
The Network on Community Rights and Biodiversity (Thailand)
The Thai Network on Community Rights and Biodiversity (BIOTHAI) has been spearheading a national campaign of awareness and protest against biopiracy. One of the most notorious acts of biopiracy was carried out by a US firm, RiceTec Inc., which sought to protect the name "Jasmati" for commercial purpose. This name creates a false association between an ordinary rice and the famous Thai aromatic Jasmine rice, thus potentially threatening Thai exports of Jasmine rice. BIOTHAI has also been active in reviewing Monsanto's moves to promote commercial biotechnology in Thailand, and in working towards the recognition of farmers' rights in the national legislation.
The Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe)
The Community Technology Development Trust has been active in initiating a national dialogue on policies and legislations relating to biodiversity management, intellectual property rights (IPR) and farmers' rights. In 1998, it co-organised a consultative workshop with the government to assess the alternatives to current IPR regimes which would protect traditional knowledge systems and technologies and reflect the socio-economic and cultural realities of the country.
Interamerican Network on Agriculture and Democracy (Latin America)
The Red Interamericana Agricultura y Democracia (RIAD) brings together people, institutions and farmers’ organisations from more than 14 countries of the American continent under the theme of ‘Democracy and rural development’. In January 1999, RIAD jointly organised with Acción ecológica, a Latin American workshop on biosafety and transgenic organisms, held in Quito (Equator). The participants declared that they were opposed to the introduction of genetically modified organisms into the market and to intellectual property rights on life. Moreover they have demanded that an agreement on biosafety based on the principle of precaution be drafted, which would guarantee the protection of traditional agricultural systems, have precedence over international trade agreements and would recognise the rights of States to freely manage the usage, distribution and marketing of GMOs in their territories after consulting the civil society.