Izwi neTarisiro – Zimbabwe’s citizens jury

Izwi neTarisiro – Zimbabwe’s citizens jury

Small farmers’ deliberative democracy for decision making in Zimbabwe

This article is about a citizen’s jury in Zimbabwe that was held in a bid to improve the quality and relevance of policies that affect smallholder farmers who are struggling economically. The purpose of the jury was to locally adapt, test and evaluate a participatory, deliberative and inclusive framework that could encourage smallholder involvement in agricultural policy formulation. This piece also focuses on genetically modified (GM) crops as Zimambwe has been facing an imminent famine.

Key issues highlighted during the proceedings of the Citizens’ Jury are as follows:

  • although smallholder farmers constitute the majority of Zimbabwe’s farmers and are most affected by agricultural policies, they are typically excluded from the policy formulation
  • farmers raised a number of concerns on the economic, environmental, social and safety of GM crops
  • concerns over cross pollination, the contamination of wild relatives, pest resistance, the impact on friendly insects, seed costs, intellectual property rights, biopiracy were also noted.
  • there is a lack of promotional publicity regarding potential benefits and threats of genetic modification technologies
  • issues of food sovereignty was also raised by farmers as they recognised that Zimbabwe has not yet been capable of producing any GM crop seed and have been relying on external big companies.
The Citizen’s Jury has made a range of recommendations on a number of interrelated issues such as  water and agriculture, rural livelihood options, HIV/AIDs and labour, and natural resource management. Recommendations include:
  • promote extension systems by sharing knowledge on breeding for both modern and traditional seeds, farmer to farmer extension approaches and farmer led research
  • improve farming systems by using locally available resources and traditional crops and livestock
  • facilitate full awareness and education about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) through research into the assumed pros and cons of GMO and by provision of mandatory compensation to the people affected by GMOs
  • enforce laws to protect seeds from being used to develop hybrids, protect the exploitation of natural resources for corporate gain and freedom to trade seeds on the local market.
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