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ISSD Africa National Seminar, Zambia

At the ISSDAfrica National Seminar held on 9th February 2016 in Lusaka bringing together more than 40 seed industry stakeholders, a number of key challenges to seed delivery in Zambia were deliberated. Addressing the participants, Ms. Mable Simwanza, the Director of SCCI, observed that even though Zambia is a net seed exporter, producing 80,000 MT of seed annually, it still faced key challenges in the access to legume seeds and varieties, adding that most seed is “recycled”.  

Seed is the most important input to crop production as it sets the limit for productivity. Provision of high quality seed of superior varieties is crucial in ensuring high crop yield. Over 90% of Zambia’s farmers are small-scale farmer most of whom are located in the far removed areas of the country. Their main food crop is maize. These farmers face many challenges in access to quality seed of improved varieties. Seed delivery is carried out by both the formal and informal seed systems, but the seed sector is regulated by the Plant variety and Seeds (CAP 236) Act. Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) is a department under the Ministry of Agriculture charged with the seed inspection and certification.

Ms. Simwanza further noted that the marketing of publicly-bred varieties remained a major challenge. Marketing of certified seed is still dominated by the private sector. Participants observed that there was uncertainty about the source and quality of seed used by farmers. Seed delivery for some crops is very poor and farmers often recycle seed for varieties such as legumes. Also, even though variety development is carried out by both the public and private sectors, farmer participation is often limited. There is therefore need to promote legume varieties, encourage seed production by smallholder farmers and seed marketing by rural based seed entrepreneurs in order to improve on seed availability and access in rural areas. It was also observed that foundation seed was often unavailable and limited seed production of public-bred varieties. Therefore, incentives for foundation seed provision are needed and joint planning with key stakeholders, including smallholder farmers should be encouraged.

Multiplication and marketing of seed in Zambia is mainly carried out by the private sector, involving both local and international seed companies. Seed inspection is carried out by SCCI inspectors or those accredited by the regulator. In addition to conventional breeding programs and seed testing equipment, SCCI has a biotechnology laboratory to aid in genetic fingerprinting in an effort to determine the genetic purity of seed, but there is need to strengthen capacity of staff and support the equipment of the existing laboratory to efficiently serve the farmers’ interests. Furthermore, more seed testing laboratories are required, especially in Luapula and Muchinga provinces where such facilities are lacking. Currently, seed testing is carried out at SCCI seed laboratories or at laboratories accredited to SCCI for this purpose. SCCI has 8 seed laboratories one of which is accredited to the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA). There are at least three private seed laboratories accredited by SCCI every year.

The challenges posed by the national and international seed quality requirements presents opportunity for the seed sector in Zambia. Zambia must continue to strengthen her capacity to provide quality seed as per the international standards, and exploit the wider market created by the harmonization of seed regulations in SADC and COMESA, by fast-tracking the domestication of regional policy agreements on seed. Finally, to address the concerns of plant breeders, Zambia enacted the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in 2007, allowing variety owners to protect their varieties in accordance with the Distinctiveness, Uniformity and stability (DUS) requirements. To be more effective, there is need to create more awareness among stakeholders, and provide support to SCCI to effectively administer the implementation of the Act

Francisco Miti: ISSD Africa Zambia Focal Point