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.
DRC CATALOGUE OF PLANT SPECIES NOW INCLUDES 18 NEW VARIETIES
1 kg bags of maize seed packed by ETS Job seed company in Goma, DRC.
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.
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 .
TASAI TO RELEASE FIRST-EVER MALI COUNTRY STUDY FINDINGS
Developing the market for certified seed, building capacity of local seed companies, and strengthening Mali’s seed testing entity, the Laboratoire des Semences du Mali, are key priorities for seed industry reform in Mali. These – and other issues – were identified in a workshop convened by TASAI in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to release the findings of the TASAI country study in Mali. Held in Bamako on August 21, 2019, the program brought together participants from government agencies (the Direction Nationale de l’ Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and the Institut d’Economie Rurale), the national agriculture research institution, the national seed association (Association Semencière du Mali), private seed companies, and development organizations.
The workshop was opened by Mr. Oumar Tamboura, the new Director General of NDA, who emphasized that the workshop was both important and timely, as the Ministry of Agriculture is making efforts to build a more organized seed sector in Mali. His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Bourema Dembele, AGRA Country Manager for Mali, who added that AGRA supports governments’ efforts to improve the policy environment for agriculture, and that the TASAI study provides evidence to propel such reforms.
Mali researcher Dr. Sokona Dagnoko presenting the TASAI findings.
TASAI Mali workshop delegates
UNILU SIGNS LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH CIMMYT
Maize farmers in Haut-Katanga and other neighbouring provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will soon benefit from maize hybrid varieties that have been developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). On 8th April 2019, CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program signed a maize commercial license agreement with the University of Lubumbashi (UNILU) based in Haut-Katanga province. Only one of two universities in the DRC with an active plant breeding program, UNILU has developed and released several open-pollinated varieties (OPV) of maize, such as ZM623 and ZM721. Originally from CIMMYT, both OPV varieties were introduced in 2008. More recently in 2017, UNILU introduced three other CIMMYT-derived OPV maize varieties, namely ZM625, ZM725 and ZM525 (also called Bukidi Bukidi) under the New Seed Initiative for Maize in Africa (NSIMA) program. The newly signed agreement grants UNILU the license to maintain and commercialize three maize hybrid varieties.
The UNILU-CIMMYT license agreement is the result of a collaboration between ELAN RDC and The African Seed Access Index (TASAI). In 2017, ELAN-RDC supported the first TASAI country study for DRC, which identified various challenges along the seed value chain in DRC, including a lack of funding and staff in the breeding programs. In 2018, the two organizations developed a 12-point strategy to respond to these challenges with a focus on four provinces – Haut-Katanga, Lualaba, South Kivu, and North Kivu. Starting in 2018, and with additional support from the African Development Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program, the two organizations implemented several activities identified by the 12-point strategy, including strengthening links between seed producers and UNILU in the DRC and international and national agricultural research programs in other African countries, with the goal of creating better access to improved varieties in the DRC. The new license agreement with CIMMYT is the first result of the initiative and will form the basis of UNILU’s future maize hybrid breeding program, which will complement the on-going OPV program.
Laboratory at the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences,University of Lubumbashi (DRC)
Scientist on the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences in University of Lubumbashi in DRC
FINDINGS OF FIRST SEED SECTOR ASSESSMENT IN RWANDA RELEASED
Rwanda has a growing seed industry which has registered notable improvements over the last ten years. The country currently has 15 private seed companies (local and foreign) that are active in seed production and/or marketing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) has recently recommended 81 varieties of crops for release and commercialization. In 2016, government passed a new law governing seeds and plant varieties in Rwanda (Law No 005/2016 of 05/04/2016) along with the supporting Ministerial Orders, which govern the law’s implementation.
(l-r) : Boaz Keizire, Head of Policy at AGRA; Jean Claude Musabyimana, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; Martha Phiri, African Development Bank, Rwanda Country Manager at the opening of the TASAI-AGRA Rwanda workshop
Dr. Charles Murekezi, Director General of Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda, reviewing the status of the seed industry in Rwanda
These are just a few of the findings from the recently completed TASAI Rwanda Country Study, which was presented to a wide range of seed industry stakeholders in a meeting hosted in Kigali by TASAI, along with development partner the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), on 17th July 2019. The meeting, which brought together close to 50 participants from the private and public sectors, was officially opened by MINAGRI Permanent Secretary Jean Claude MUSABYIMANA. Following the presentation by the TASAI team, MINAGRI’s presentation highlighted the key challenges facing Rwanda’s seed sector and strategies deployed to meet them. In addition, the Rwanda Agricultural Board described the status of plant breeding and variety development in the country and pointed to existing linkages between RAB and the seed producers. In an effort to share lessons from the region, the Executive Officer of the Seed Trade Association of Kenya shared his country’s experiences about managing a national seed trade association and ideas about how seed trade associations can engage government and represent the private sector more effectively. Finally, the Managing Director of Dryland Seed Limited (Kenya) provided the perspective of a locally owned private seed company, discussing topics such as the acquisition and maintenance of basic seed, seed production with contract out-growers, variety registration and release, and seed marketing and distribution through agro-dealers.
TASAI KENYA FINDINGS INFORM SEED INDUSTRY REFORMS
TASAI Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Waithaka presents findings from the TASAI Kenya study.
Kenya’s seed sector has grown significantly in the last few years, in part as a result of the recent adoption of supportive seed regulations and effective enforcement. Despite these strides, the sector continues to experience challenges: one is the low rate of commercialization of new varieties released by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) as recommended by the National Variety Release Committee (NVRC). TASAI studies have found that, while 314 maize varieties were released between 2000 and 2017, only 26 were sold to farmers in 2017 (and, in fact, some of those sold were released prior to 2000). The situation of sorghum is similar to that of maize: while 30 varieties were released during 2000-2017, only 11 were sold in 2017. Beans and millet are faring better: of the 31 bean varieties released, 30 were sold, and out of the 10 millet varieties released, 9 were sold. These data are important reference points for public institutions like the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) and public universities that are evaluating their breeding programs to better respond to farmers’ needs.
The mismatch between the varieties that have been officially released and those that are being commercialized was one of several issues discussed during a recent joint meeting of the NVRC and the National Performance Trials Committee (NPTC). Supported by Africa Lead, the meeting was convened on 3rd September 2019 by KEPHIS and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and included representatives from the Seed Trade Association of Kenya, the Plant Breeders’ Association of Kenya, the Kenya National Farmers’ Federation, and KALRO. The discussion, which was informed by 2018 Kenya TASAI study, highlighted the issue that the National Variety List includes all varieties that have been released by KEPHIS without reference to whether the variety is under commercial production. As such, it is not useful to farmers who are looking to select which varieties to plant. To make the list more relevant to farmers, MoALF tasked the joint committee to draft a list of varieties that are currently being commercialized. Participants in the meeting agreed to focus on the Second Schedule Crops of The Seeds and Plant Varieties (Seeds) Regulations 2016, and they set a deadline of January 2020 to release a publication targeting farmers that is simple and user-friendly. The publication will be shared with all Counties to ensure wide outreach.
TASAI Program Coordinator Mainza Mugoya welcomes invited delegates.
TASAI IS ON THE MOVE! FIND US IN ABUJA, NIGERIA FOR THE NEXT TASAI DISSEMINATION WORKSHOP ON SEP. 26, 2019