Plant Breeders' Rights Licensing in Smallholder Farming: Observations From Kenya

Peter Munyi, Bram De Jonge, Niels Louwaars


Focusing on Kenya as an example of a market where food production is mostly for subsistence purposes, this article seeks to establish whether licensing of plant breeders’ rights is a mechanism that can facilitate access to seeds and planting material to smallholder farmers. Through a case study method and qualitative interviews of a wide range of stakeholders, it was found that licensing strategies that are employed in market conditions such as those prevailing in Kenya usually involve some form of market differentiation. This is in order to ensure that the targeted beneficiary is reached. It was also found that whatever licensing strategy is employed, each has some advantages and disadvantages. Further, not-for-profit technology brokers have emerged with a view to absorb some costs in the licensing process which are otherwise out of reach for smallholder farmers. Breeders also waive some of their rights with respect to protected varieties. The article concludes that the use of licensing as a tool to facilitate access to seeds and planting material for smallholder farmers in market conditions such as those prevailing in Kenya has received little attention and only involves very few commercial crops.  Where breeders choose to waive some of their rights, they should let farmers know so as to create legal certainty on utilization of accessed varieties. 

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Copyright (c) 2018 Peter Munyi, Bram De Jonge, Neils Louwaars

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Journal of Politics and Law ISSN 1913-9047 (Print) ISSN 1913-9055 (Online)  Email:

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