Welcome to TASAI’s newsletter, where we share updates about our work and opportunities to engage with us on all things African seed systems-related.
A WORD FROM THE TASAI TEAM
2020 shapes up to be truly a milestone year for The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) and TASAI Inc., the newly formed nonprofit organization that serves as TASAI’s institutional home. Although TASAI’s core team is still small, its members work across five time zones to coordinate the work of over 40 local researchers in 21 target countries in Africa. This year will see us extend our reach by expanding both our country coverage and our team.
The new year also brings an exciting new partnership between TASAI and Washington, DC-based Development Gateway, whose work focuses on bringing data and digital solutions to international development. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a three-year project will showcase TASAI findings using state-of-the-art data visualization tools, making our findings more accessible to a wider range of stakeholders. I invite you to read more about the new partnership in our joint press release.
Stay tuned for updates from us throughout the year – we look forward to keeping you informed of the exciting developments this year holds for TASAI Inc.
SEED EXPERTS MEET TO REVIEW TASAI INDICATORS
Since we conducted the initial TASAI Pilot Studies in 2013, we have modified our methodology several times to improve the accuracy and completeness of our research. Since our last methodological review in 2016, the TASAI team has received valuable feedback from seed industry stakeholders across Africa, and we decided it was time to convene stakeholders for a fresh review of the indicators before this year’s round of studies.
Twenty invited guests met in Nairobi on Feb 6-7, 2020, including TASAI country researchers from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, along with seed industry experts from Kenya and staff members of Development Gateway, the organization partnering with us for the next round of TASAI studies.
Our team presented our latest revision of the TASAI indicators. Throughout two days of extensive discussions, participants carefully considered each indicator and suggested a number of useful improvements. The resulting improved set of indicators will allow the TASAI team to collect more detailed and more precise data in the target countries and to produce more accurate and relevant cross-country comparisons. Our team and the meeting participants also reviewed our indicators through a gender lens to identify variables for which collecting data by gender would be useful and feasible. We are excited to add this new and valuable dimension to TASAI’s outputs. We launched the first of 11 new country studies in Malawi mid-February and look forward to seeing the results of our newly improved indicator set.
Participants attending Nairobi Technical Meeting
Participants during Nairobi Technical Meeting
INCEPTION MEETING KICKS OFF MALAWI COUNTRY STUDY
The TASAI Malawi study is the first of 11 country studies slated for 2020. Applying the TASAI methodology, including our newly revised TASAI indicators, we will assess the enabling environment for seed sector development in the country. This is our second study in Malawi; the first took place in 2016–17. The Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD), the consulting arm of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR— formerly Bunda College), will conduct the study. TASAI Principal Investigator Michael Waithaka and Program Coordinator Mainza Mugoya traveled to Lilongwe on 17th to 21st February 2020 to kick-start the study. A series of inception activities trained the TASAI Malawi research team, conducted a preliminary assessment of the country’s seed industry by meeting with key seed industry stakeholders, and convened a TASAI Malawi inception workshop. The workshop took place on 20 February, 2020, and informed 30 participants from the private sector, agriculture research institutions, MAIWD, USAID seed programs, NGOs, and the media about the objectives and scope of the study.
While in Lilongwe, the TASAI team also met with the Head of the Seed Services Unit of the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development; a Deputy Director of DARS; the AGRA Malawi Country Manager and her team; the Executive Officer of the Seed Trade Association of Malawi; and representatives from the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI).
Participants attending TASAI Malawi Inception Meeting
Participants attending TASAI Malawi Inception Meeting
TASAI TO WORK WITH ELAN RDC TO FACILITATE REVIEW OF DRC SEED BILL
With support from ELAN RDC, TASAI conducted a country study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2017. We assessed the seed sector of the country, with a focus on 12 of the 26 provinces. Since then, TASAI has partnered with ELAN RDC several times to respond to some of the critical needs in the seed industry, including strengthening provincial seed councils in Haut-Katanga and in North and South Kivu, and facilitating the Technical Commission on the Admission into the Catalogue (CTAC) to update the DRC Catalogue of Plants and Species.
In 2020, ELAN RDC will partner with TASAI once again to facilitate the review of the draft DRC Seed Bill. A comprehensive review of the bill will aim at ensuring that it is complete and robust. Assessments will include whether key implementing institutions are defined in the law, whether the law outlines the steps, requirements, and institutional arrangements for variety release and registration, and whether the law conforms to the seed industry regulations of Regional Economic Communities, namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), of which the DRC is a member. The process will be guided by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Seed Service (SENASEM) and will include multiple stakeholder consultations in Goma (North Kivu), Bukavu (South Kivu), and Kinshasa. The input from the stakeholder meetings will be consolidated and presented to the Ministry of Agriculture for approval before the bill can be re-submitted to Parliament for debate.
Women sorting seed in one of the seed companies’ warehouse in Goma, North Kivu, DRC
UNVEILING THE SEED SECTOR STATUS REPORT IN AFRICA
In partnership with the African Union Commission, TASAI Inc. facilitated a workshop on 2-6 December, 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop brought together over 40 experts from diverse institutions working in the seed sector. Dr. Simplice Nouala, Head, AFSD, African Union Commission (AUC), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Beatrice Egulu, Policy Officer at AUC, led a review of the draft report on the status of the seed sector in Africa, which had been prepared at the request of the AUC’s Directorate of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA). Along with the AUC, TASAI Inc. served as a lead author on the report, which included contributions by AfricaSeeds, ILRI, AATF, NARO, CGRFA, FARA, ECOWAS, KALRO, and FAO, among others.
The report focuses on multiple components, including the collection and conservation of plant genetic resources, an overview of research and development efforts in the seed industry, a discussion of various aspects of competitiveness of the seed industry (highlighting import/export processes, volumes of seeds produce/sold, among other aspects), a review of the policy and regulatory environments and of the types and quality of institutional support services available in the seed industry. Focused primarily on plant seeds, the report also includes a brief discussion of challenges and opportunities in the animal seed sector. It concludes with a section on the cross-cutting themes of gender and youth as they pertain to the seed sector. The workshop also developed a 10-Year Action Plan for the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP) of the AUC, included in the Seed Sector Report.
Upon release by the AUC, the report will advance the understanding of Africa’s seed sector, increase the continent’s ability to consolidate current gains, and address remaining challenges to realization of the 3rd commitment of the Malabo Declaration to end hunger and malnutrition by 2025.
AUC- TASAI Workshop attendees
ONGOING SERIES: TASAI’S GENDERED LENS SPOTLIGHT
TASAI RESEARCHER SOKONA DAGNOKO
(left) Dr. Sokona Dagnoko, presenting the TASAI findings in Mali in 2019.
In recognition of International Women’s Month and all year long, TASAI will spotlight one of the many exceptional women involved with our research. This month we spotlight Dr. Sokona Dagnoko, Country Director of the international NGO Sasakawa Africa Association, based in Mali. Dr. Dagnoko obtained her Master of Science (MPhil) in Animal Science with a major in Nutrition from Laval University, Quebec (Canada) and her PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics with a minor in International Agriculture from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (USA).
She developed her expertise in conventional and molecular plant breeding at the Cornell Maize Breeding Program and the Cornell Institute of Genomic Diversity. Dr Sokona has led projects and implementations for organizations such as CORAF/WECARD, CTA, ISSD, AVRDC, and ICRISAT. Since 2015, Dr Sokona has served as a member of the Technical Committee of RUFORUM, and recently as a member of the Steering Committee of its TAGDev project (Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s Growth and Development), funded by the MasterCard Foundation.