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ISSD Africa National Seminar, Kenya

The seed sector in Kenya is often faced with the challenge off fake seeds. Smallholder farmers in Kenya cannot access quality seed of superior varieties hence low agricultural productivity. A well-functioning seed sector should therefore exploit all seed systems. These remarks were made by Dr Mary Mathenge the Director of Tegemeo Institute at the ISSD Africa Kenya National Seminar held on 24th March, 2016 at the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

Participants group photo

The seminar, which was organised by Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) with support from the ISSDAfrica Secretariat and the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), provided a platform where case studies and ISSD Africa Action Learning Projects, some of which were conducted in Kenya, were shared to a wider audience comprising of, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, CGIAR centres, research and educational institutions, NGOS’, farmer groups, public and private seed companies and the media.

Dr Ivan Rwomushana, the facilitator of the ‘Access to Varieties’ thematic working group gave an overview of the synthesized findings and lessons from this group focusing on how to effectively get promising genetic material from breeders out to diverse users for commercial, but in particular for non-commercial crops. Dr Rwomushana noted that the case studies, conducted in four countries, namely Kenya, Zambia, Mali and Uganda, were guided by three priority questions namely:

  • What are the novel mechanisms for getting information out on varieties early and at scale for farmers and multipliers?
  • What are the innovative models of getting foundation seed of public varieties to seed producers?
  • Evaluation of user agreements which improve access to new varieties to farmers and to private sector and other seed producers.

With regard to access to variety information, key issues discussed in the synthesized findings included: information accuracy and reliabilty; use of ICT to improve access to infrmation; involving the community in breeding at earlier stages; and matching information with access to seed. With respect to access to foundation seed, a number of findings were presented including: provision of an enabling environment, joint and timely planning, addressing of the issue of subsidies and incentives, use of production contracts for foundation seed, and capacity building for the private sector. Regarding access to variety agreements, the main findings included holding joint workshops, and exploring the possibility of exclusive variety use agreement. Detailed findings on these ALPs’ can be viewed here.

Panel discussions

In the afternoon session, participants were divided into four groups (Seed entrepreneurship, Information mechanisms and access to foundation seeds, User agreements and Plant variety protection) to discuss which policy makers, stakeholders that they could engage with, as well as related projects and events that could form part of the ISSDAfrica around these four thematic areas; Second, based on the same thematic areas, the groups discussed and identified concrete entry points for change that could provide input to the proposal for the next phase of ISSDAfrica.

In the panel presentations, the four groups identified, universities, National Research Institutions, public and private seed traders, farmer groups, regional agricultural networks, government, CGIAR centers, International agricultural institutions, seed associations and the media as stakeholders to work with.

Further, participants suggested that the ISSDAfrica implementation agenda should explore better ways of engaging with policy makers, regulators and practitioners including engagement in joint collaborative projects that could lead to policy learning, implementation and change. They listed PABRA-CIAT, CIP-Seed Potato for Africa, KALRO-Seed Unit, ISSDAfrica, Consultative meetings, Stakeholder forums , National agricultural exhibitions, Seed fairs, international and regional forums such as, AFSTA, ISTA, STAK, as events and related projects that they could collaborate with. 

The seminar ended with participants suggesting  future focus areas for ISSD Africa:

  • Identification of bottlenecks in the seed systems such as, awareness creation on released varieties, ease of access to varieties, quantities held (including gene banks), pricing, policy change; capacity building and investments, among others. Participants further suggested that a proper analysis of these storylines should be embedded in the policy processes of ISSD Africa.
  • ISSD Africa need to lobby and advocate for pluralistic seed policy and laws/regulations. This requires awareness creation (nation-wide); using farmer groups, various information platforms, etc to operationalise decentralization to enhance seed quality control by reviewing and amending seed laws and regulations.
  • ISSDAfrica needs to make a business case for quality declared seeds (QDS) in order to gain support for incorporation in the national seed legal frameworks through Action Learning projects and forums for information exchange among key stakeholders.
  • ISSDAfrica to prioritise capacity building of policy makers, researchers and practitioners on seed system in Africa. This includes evidence-based sensitization of policy makers, infrastructure and soft skills training (including technical and attitude change) of researchers and capacity building at the community level/use gene banks as an entry point. ISSDAfrica to achieve this by building meaningful partnerships with other stakeholders and donors.

Angeline Wafula, ISSD Africa Secretariat

Read the full report of this event on the right side of the page