The deregulation of seed markets in the early 1990s, in principle, ended state-owned monopolies in seed production, marketing, and distribution. Since then, significant investments have been made in liberalizing the seed sectors of most African countries, resulting in increased participation by private seed enterprises (both multinationals and emerging domestic companies). However, transition towards a vibrant, private sector-led seed system has been slow due to weak enabling environments. Enabling business environments are the “set of policies, institutions, support services and other conditions that collectively improve or create a general business setting where business activities can start, develop and thrive”. Like any other industry, the seed sector in sub-Saharan African countries requires an enabling environment to thrive.
The central objective of TASAI is to promote the creation and maintenance of enabling environments for competitive seed systems serving smallholder farmers. It is this enabling environment that TASAI seeks to measure, track, and compare across African countries. TASAI’s intended outcome is improved access to locally adapted, affordable, and high-quality seed of improved varieties by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Seed systems are critical to improving food and nutrition security, resilience, and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. TASAI defines the meaning of success for a seed system based on its ability to deliver the following outcomes for farmers: Availability, Accessibility, Affordability, and Quality.
Availability: For a specific crop variety availability entails that all seed classes are available in sufficient quantities to meet existing demand. Further, it requires timely availability of a wide range of varieties that are both agro-ecologically adapted and responsive to farmers’ needs.
Accessibility: For seed to be accessible, enough delivery channels must be in place to reach smallholder farmers. Additionally, farmers need adequate information on varieties and a sufficient number of outlets to make informed seed purchase choices.
Affordability: At the final point of sale, each seed variety must be available at prices that are affordable for most smallholder farmers. Affordability also includes the availability of seed in small packages so that smallholder farmers can purchase smaller quantities at a time.
Quality: Seed must be available in quality that meets the farmers’ expectations, the labeled specifications or the regulated standards. Further, to promote accountability, seed systems should have redress mechanisms available for farmers if the seed does not perform to the stated standard.
The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) is a tool that is designed to monitor and evaluate the structure, conduct, and performance of seed systems serving smallholder farmers in Africa. The intended outcome of TASAI is improved access to locally adapted, affordable, and high-quality seed of appropriate varieties by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. TASAI is used by practitioners in the public sector, private sector, and development aid agencies to both inform and compel change.
Public Sector: The primary audience for TASAI is public policy makers, regulators, and law enforcement agencies involved in the seed system value chain. Implementing institutions such as ministries of agriculture, seed inspection services, and agricultural research institutions can also use TASAI to benchmark their performance.
Private Sector: TASAI can be used by seed companies and other value chain players to identify investment opportunities in the African seed value chain. Key stakeholders may also use this tool to potentially advocate for a better enabling environment.
Development Aid Agencies: For NGOs and other development agencies working in rural agricultural development, TASAI can highlight issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure access to improved seed by smallholder farmers. TASAI can serve as a tool for donors to highlight critical areas within the seed value chain in which improvements and actions can be focused on.
The work of The African Seed Access Index is coordinated by TASAI, Inc., a not-for-profit (501(c)(3)) organization with a team divided between in Ithaca, NY, USA and Nairobi, Kenya, along with local research teams in the countries where TASAI operates. TASAI collaborates widely to achieve its goal; partners include local agricultural universities, seed traders’associations, relevant government departments as well as non-governmental agencies working in seed sector development. Past and present partners include the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), USAID, Adam Smith International (through the ELAN-RDC program), Agri-Experience, Kenya Markets Trust, Cornell University (and its Emerging Markets Program), and Market Matters Inc.
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