Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will soon have access to 18 new varieties of certified seed and planting materials for cereals, legumes, and roots and tubers, thanks to the newly updated DRC Catalogue of Plant Species. The result of a joint effort between the Service National des Semences (SENASEM) and The African Seed Access index (TASAI), the work was supported by ELAN RDC and the African Development Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program.
According to the findings of the TASAI DRC study, in 2016 seed producers sold 89 varieties of the four key crops – maize, bean, rice, and soya bean – to farmers in the country. However, only 20 of these were listed in the variety catalogue, which had last been updated in 2012. The remaining 69 varieties were either on a temporary variety release list or had been submitted to SENASEM for registration and release. TASAI also found significant differences in the geographic distribution of these 89 varieties. While 56 varieties of the four crops were sold in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, in the northern provinces of Equatuer, Mongala, Sud Ubangi, and Nord Ubangi only 5 varieties were sold.

1 kg bags of maize seed packed by ETS Job seed company
in Goma, DRC.

One way to ensure that the catalogue is up-to-date is to strengthen the Technology Commission for the Admission into the Catalogue (CTAC), the national body responsible for variety release. As the first step, SENASEM established a technical committee tasked with updating the variety catalogue. Comprised of key SENASEM staff and seed experts from the Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques (INERA) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and with technical support from the TASAI team, the committee met on 10-12 July 2019 at the INERA headquarters in Kinshasa. Following a comprehensive review of the catalogue, the committee decided to add 18 new varieties and to remove 30 existing varieties. As a result of this work, the Catalogue, which previously contained 227 varieties, now has 215 varieties: 51 cereals, 90 legumes, and 74 root and tuber varieties. Importantly, 10 of the 18 new varieties have bio-fortified characteristics – 3 maize, 4 bean, and 3 cassava varieties. Once the Minister of Agriculture signs the decree, the Catalogue will be released to the public, and the Ministry and other partners will work to raise awareness among seed producers and farmers about the newly released varieties .