What has gender to do with farmers' rights?
As men and women farmers' knowledge, skills and practices contribute to the conservation, development, and management of PGR and thereby to sustainable agriculture, their different contributions must be recognized and respected. An analysis and understanding of men and women farmers' differential roles and responsibilities in PGR conservation and management, as well as the intrinsic value of their knowledge, is crucial to the solution of situation specific problems and to the provision of appropriate and targeted support.
There is, today, little disagreement on the need for recognizing and rewarding farmers' innovations relating to the improvement and conservation of PGR. The challenge is how to do this through Farmers' Rights. Plant genetic and other biological resources have added or associated values which are not necessarily reflected in their price in the market place. The benefits of their existence confer on society as a whole and not only on those directly concerned (de, they are a public good).
Farmers' Rights are generally considered to be group (collective) rights that do not necessarily imply direct compensation or bilateral reciprocity, such as selling a license for exclusive rights to collect and use crop germplasm. Rather they are, or could be valued by non-market mechanisms, such as a direct levy on users or consumers of crop genetic resources in developed countries or a national assessment based on UN funding formulas (Brush, 1994). There is not necessarily a clear linkage between the "conserver/developer" of PGR and the user who may be in a different region, country or continent.
It is important that Farmers' Rights, once fully operative, not only recognize the value of PGR resources, but also specify ways for benefits to accrue to the contributors, of whom many are women, as noted above. The need for Member Nations, multilateral agencies, donors, policy makers and planners, scientists, and technical agents, to recognize gender disaggregated contributions and potential benefits of men and women farmers, is not yet specifically noted under the agreed texts on Farmers' Rights. However, the need for gender responsiveness is now mentioned in various other international agreements recognizing the distinctive contributions women make to the development and nurturing of natural resources and the rights they have to benefit from the use of these.
Most notably, the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCED) came into force on December 29, 199: and clearly recognizes "...the vital role that women play in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity", and affirms "...the need for the full participation of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation for biological diversity Conservation (Preamble)."
Further, Agenda 21, the Action Programme adopted by UNCED recommended that, "Governments should recognize and foster the traditional methods and knowledge of indigenous people and their communities, emphasizing the particular role of women, relevant to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources, and ensure the opportunities for tile participation of those groups in the economic and commercial benefits derived from the uses of such traditional methods and knowledge."(15.4)
Cooperative efforts are required between rural communities, breeders and other national and intentional researchers, and agencies, in order to better provide for more sustainable conservation and utilization strategies overall. These will require paying close attention to the different knowledge and experiences of both rural men and women to provide a more accurate picture of both the extent of PGR diversity, and the various contributions of all actors in a specific location. These efforts must also provide social and economic incentives and means for conservation and further development of potentially different PGR by men and women.
In this respect, it is important to ensure that all contributors to PGR innovation, management and conservation have access to relevant decision-making processes, and that the different experiences, knowledge, needs and priorities are recognized and incorporated into activities associated with Farmers' Rights. In this way, Farmers' Rights will be more equitable, transparent, and more effective in supporting the initiatives of the different actors. This will, in turn, through sustainable practices, increase the likelihood of conservation of PGR overall, both for local utilization and for the sake of global biodiversity.
Similarly it is important that all contributors to PGR conservation, use and management participate fully in the assessment of needs and in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and interventions. The widespread use over recent years of participatory rural appraisal approaches help to ensure that all community members (according to age, gender, social and economic status, ethnic and religious groups, etc.) participate actively in the development process as both actors and decision makers, and to ensure that their differential experiences, knowledge, needs and priorities of the different are considered.