Continued strategic interventions needed in seed value chain

Innovation-driven progress in seed value chains is constrained by capacity and cooperation shortages. Participatory assessments have created awareness for problems of a systemic nature, identified critical interventions needed to stimulate and build on innovation in seed value chains.

ISSD conducted 14 highly participatory rapid seed value chain (SVC) assessments on 10 economically important crops in 2016. The main objectives of the study were to identify actors in different operations of selected seed value chains, evaluate their access to and the performance of available support services and to assess the coherence of the regulatory environment with these practices. The assessments would enable the identification of opportunities and constraints for further interventions to continue to develop these seed value chains.

Many of the common constraints are already well known, but the assessments highlighted a number of chronic issues. Variety release from the research system is limited by a lack of capacity, while locally favoured varieties receive insufficient recognition and promotion. Shortages in early generation seed (EGS), certified seed, germplasm, and chemicals to treat diseases are compounded by a lack of technical capacity and cooperation among actors. In particular, women’s participation in decision-making and benefit-sharing is still noticeably low.

Collaborative SVC action agenda
ISSD prioritises SVC development as one of its core programme components. The results of the SVC assessments have been shared and discussed in workshops with relevant SVC actors. The process informs an agenda calling for sector-wide engagement and action:

EGS shortages can be addressed through joint planning and responsibility sharing among research centres and seed producers. Strengthening the capacity of producers in terms of land, irrigation facilities, materials and man power will further support this process. A better system of forward planning and contracting based on actual market demands is needed.

Establishing independent seed regulatory bodies that operate at federal and regional levels will help to
address seed quality problems in all regions, across all crops and seed classes. Revenue generation for cost recovery will be important for the effective functioning of these authorities. Their roles should not only be limited to inspecting quality, but also advising seed producers how to control internally for better seed quality.

Scaling up the input voucher system which is currently under pilot and fully implementing ATA’s rural finance strategy is needed to combat the pervasive lack of credit across the sector. Hand-in hand with this objective is increased rates of farmers’ financial literacy. Based on better financial recording and management, farmers can improve their creditworthiness. Existing materials for training on financial literacy are available from our partner BENEFIT-SBN (the support program to the Sesame Business Network).

Strengthening the role of the regional seed core groups in coordinating seed value chain developments and placing them under a supervision of a national seed advisory group is needed to improve collaborative governance of the seed sector.

Government’s endorsement of direct seed marketing (DSM), coupled with adoption and implementation of guidelines will enable DSM to finally be incorporated into common practice. DSM will address many of the challenges in the current seed allocation and distribution system, providing farmers with greater choice among seed products at a competitive price and the chance to hold those to account for inferior seed quality or reward those producing superior quality. DSM has also been proven to reduce rates of wasteful carry-over seed.

The Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity and research institutes need strengthening in terms of manpower and finance to ensure that outstanding new and improved varieties with farmer preferred traits are released regularly by the research system. Continuous and regular variety maintenance should also be done by respective research centers. Such strengthening will also address the current shortage of germplasm.

Solidifying producers’ access to support from government and development partners is essential. Producer companies and cooperatives continue to need technical support from seed production through to marketing.

Creating awareness on contents of seed laws, regulations, directives and seed sector development strategies will stimulate enhanced cooperation and understanding among seed value chain actors. Here, the regulatory directorate of MoANR can play a strong leadership role. Further, encouraging and supporting MoANR to approve and implement recent amendments to the Plant Breeders’ Right proclamation and in the preparation of directives and guidelines that clarify seed policy is crucial.

Training women; creating awareness for gender-related issues; introducing technologies preferred by women; and having policies that support women’s participation across activities, in decision-making and in benefit-sharing are essential to increase the range, sustainability and impact of existing and new interventions and to capitalise on the unique strengths of women farmers.

Supporting innovative solutions
Through innovation grants, ISSD is piloting multiple interventions that, among others,  address EGS production, contract seed production, the availability of small seed packs, the ginger SVC and private sector dialogue with government.

Further, ISSD scales up proven innovations by providing training and both financial and technical support, for example in the construction and running of a disease screening house for potato mini-tuber production in Amhara region, and in organising a workshop and training for seed inspectors on seed quality and procedures for quality declared seed (QDS).

In fulfilment of its facilitation role, ISSD strategically links seed producers and input and service providers through value chain linkage forums. Together with partners, ISSD looks forward to achieving the potential offered by these connections and innovations.