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.
TASAI rolls out six country studies in 2020
Between February and July this year, TASAI Inc. rolled out comprehensive seed industry studies in six countries– Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. The studies follow the TASAI methodology and track 22 seed industry indicators in five categories – Research and Development, Industry Competitiveness, Policy and Regulation, Industry Support and Support to smallholder farmers. The studies in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Nigeria were launched through virtual inception meetings. The one-hour meetings were opened by a senior government official, such as the head of the seed regulatory agency or the executive officer of the national seed trade association. Local participants included representatives from the seed regulatory agency, national seed associations, national agricultural research institutes, seed companies, and development partners. In addition, the meeting was attended by seed industry experts and other development practitioners from a wide range of institutions, including the African Seed Trade Association, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development, the Development Alternatives Inc., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and New Markets Lab.
The 2019-2020 data collection round includes new indicators that assess, among other issues, the status of the institutional arrangements for seed sector coordination within the governments, quality assurance systems within seed companies, and the marketing strategies employed by seed companies and producers. The studies also include questions that look at the role played by women in the seed sector in Africa. Once the studies are completed, the TASAI team will commence the dissemination phase in each country, which will give seed industry stakeholders the opportunity to review and critique the latest TASAI results.
Seed industry stakeholders at the TASAI Uganda country study inception workshop, March 2020, Kampala, Uganda
Narcis Tumushabe, President , Uganda Seed Trade Association, Nelson Masereka, Executive Officer, Uganda Seed Trade Association and Grace Musimami, Founder of Farmers’ Media newspaper
How African governments are responding to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the performance African economies since the first case was reported in March 2020. In the seeds sector, the pandemic has caused disruptions in the local and regional movement of seed, reduced the buying power of farmers, and disrupted the provision of government seed services. Some governments have taken proactive steps to minimize the disruptions to the supply of quality seed to farmers in their respective countries. For example, at the start of the pandemic, the Seed Services Institute under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlements in Zimbabwe held discussions with the seed industry to agree on an industry-wide response to the pandemic. The actions included prioritizing seed testing and seed certification as essential functions within the Ministry. Seed inspectors have been operating in their home provinces to minimize the movement of inspectors between provinces and from the headquarters in Harare.
In Rwanda, the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources distributed free basic seed to seed cooperatives and seed multipliers to produce certified seed for maize, soya bean and wheat. The seed was distributed free of charge to cushion seed producers whose purchasing power had been reduced due to the pandemic. RAB also provided tractor services to farmers to fast-track land preparation.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected seed imports from outside of Africa. One country particularly affected is Egypt, which imports about 90% of its vegetable seed requirement. In response to this disruption, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, in collaboration with the Agriculture Research Centre and private seed companies, initiated the local production of vegetable seeds. Under the initiative, potato seed is being produced by the Agriculture Research Centre using the tissue culture technology. To address a similar problem, the Government of Burkina Faso lowered the import duties for key products and agricultural inputs, in addition to supporting a seed subsidy program worth CFA 30 Million. The government of Cote d’Ivoire exempted agricultural inputs from import duties and taxes.
In July 2020, TASAI joined the Wageningen Centre for Innovation and Development (WCDI), and, under the leadership of AFSTA, produced a White Paper for the African Union Commission assessing the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on key aspects of the seed sector in Africa. The paper describes actions by governments and other stakeholders in response to emerging challenges in the seed sector. It concludes with short-and medium-term recommendations to build resilient seed systems, thereby strengthening food systems serving the Continent.
TASAI and ELAN RDC support seed industry reforms in DRC
Over the past three years TASAI Inc. has worked closely with ELAN RDC to support the implementation of several seed industry reforms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In July 2019, the TASAI team facilitated a 11-person committee to update the DRC Catalogue of Plants and Species. The committee was chaired by the National Seed Service (SENASEM) and included representatives from Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques (INERA) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). By the end of the exercise, the Catalogue had 215 varieties, 18 of which were newly added varieties. In addition, 30 varieties no longer in use were dropped. The TASAI and ELAN teams also worked closely with the seed industry stakeholders in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Haut Katanga provinces to support the revival of the provincial seed councils (COPROSEM).
This year, TASAI and ELAN intend to build on these efforts by facilitating COPROSEM meetings in North and South Kivu provinces. The meetings have three main objectives: (i) to link seed producers to basic seed from outside the DRC, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Zimbabwe, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Kenya, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda and Quali Basic Seed Ltd.; (ii) to link the seed producers to relief agencies that supply certified seed to farmers in emergency situations; and (iii) to present the draft DRC seed law seed to the seed industry stakeholders for their comments, after which the comments will be presented to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences in the University of Lubumbashi has played a key role in the research and development of bio-fortified varieties, which are now included in the DRC Catalogue of Plants and Species
TASAI contributes to AfDB’s COVID-19 Response
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, along with governments and organizations across the Continent, the African Development Bank (AfDB) responded with a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on agriculture and food systems. Labeled Feed Africa Response to COVID -19 (FAREC), the central goal of the strategy is to support African governments as they help smallholder farmers cope with the effects of COVID-19. A key aspect of the public sector response was the provision of agriculture to smallholder farmers through smart subsidy programs. As seeds are a critical agricultural input, the data provided by TASAI studies play a crucial role in supporting the implementation of AfDB’s FAREC strategy.
First and foremost, TASAI country studies provide actionable intelligence to inform the design of these programs, including information on constraints that stop the flow of seeds to smallholder farmers. Specifically, since the start of the pandemic, TASAI studies have also been used to inform the design of AfDB-supported programs as part of the FAREC Strategy. To date, TASAI has provided such support for interventions in Mozambique and Nigeria. Further, the FAREC Strategy promotes “the free flow of food and inputs distribution” through the formation of “green channels.” TASAI’s 22 indicators include those that measure the volume of seed imports and exports as well as the efficiency of the import/processes as measure by length (number of days to clear procedures) and costs. In this regard, TASAI data can be used as a benchmark to evaluate the effect of the pandemic on the cross-border movement of seed and other agricultural inputs
Overall, TASAI’s contribution is to identify constraints that limit access to improved seed by smallholder farmers. If governments can act on this information and put into place initiatives that respond to these constraints, the result will be increased resilience in the face of future challenges, be they health-related, like the COVID-19 pandemic, or others, such as environmental or economic difficulties.
ONGOING SERIES: TASAI’S GENDERED LENS SPOTLIGHT
TASAI Researcher Esther Mujuka
As part of our continuing Gendered Lens series, we spotlight one of the many exceptional women involved with our research in Africa. This month we spotlight Esther Mujuka, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Agricultural Economics at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She has worked as a consultant for the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, assessing the potential economic impact of integrated pest management and AgroNets. She has also worked for the Ministry of Agriculture as an agribusiness officer, coordinating the implementation of agribusiness related projects including the National Seed and Fertilizer Subsidy Program under the National Accelerated Agricultural Input Access Program in Kenya. Mujuka has considerable experience in the economic analysis of development projects targeting rural households particularly for crop protection. She has published on the economic impact of integrated pest management in Kenya.
We asked Esther…
“What would you tell your 10-year-old self about the ability of women to change the world?
“We all have the power within us to change the world, if only we believe”