Innovations improve linkages between seed supply and demand

Ensuring seed supply matches demand is a complex national process. Various institutional bottlenecks continue to result in farmers not getting seed of the varieties they want, while unused seed sits as carryover, degrading and potentially becoming unusable. ISSD and partners strive to address these challenges and our collaboration is yielding promising innovations.

In October 2018, workshops in the four regions where ISSD operates (Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, Tigray) brought hundreds of seed sector stakeholders together. On the agenda was the key ongoing issue of mismatching seed demand and supply.

The issue sees farmers not getting access to varieties they want and have asked for, while misinformation and planning results in surplus seed remaining in stores, with farmers who may want it, not knowing it exists. So how to address these challenges and change the demand assessment and seed supply system so that stakeholders’ needs and priorities are met, while reducing seed waste.

Reflecting with stakeholders
Across 2018 various innovations were rolled out while others were piloted for the 1st time. The regional workshops offered the perfect space to present discuss and reflect on some of these. Here we take a look at some key examples

New roles in seed demand assessment
Differing estimates of farmers’ seed demand encouraged a pilot in Oromia, supported by ISSD’s Oromia South & West Unit. Development agents were trained to complete assessments in four woredas for Erer Seed Union. Tentative results show that the innovation has contributed to a reduction in carry over seed

Mini-markets to overcome marketing challenges
ISSD’s Oromia East Unit piloted a mini-seed market in which some 250 farmers and other stakeholders attended. Supported by knowledge-sharing and discussions, the mini-seed market saw seed sold in smaller jars, but in large amounts. The competitive market environment helped develop entrepreneurial instincts and an understanding of market strategies. ISSD and partners including the Chercher Oda Bultum Farmers’ cooperative union and the cooperative promotion agency have committed to repeating and scaling the innovation

Small seed packs for ease and affordability
ISSD provided innovation grants to producers to enable learning on the potential impacts of smaller seed packs. Farmers and other participants in the trials reported positive experiences. The packs were easier to transport, more affordable, more suitable to small holder plot sizes and the fact they were transparent plastic, helped to enhance trust between sellers and buyers.

Direct Seed Marketing (DSM)
ISSD has been at the forefront of piloting, advocating for and supporting the rollout of DSM across the country. DSM has contributed greatly to efficiencies in the seed marketing system. In continuing to rollout DSM, additional attention can be given to expanding DSM for pulses and vegetables in addition to cereal, ensuring more remote farmers are not forgotten and continued variety promotion.

Enabling MPCs to engage in see retail
ISSD’s SNNPR Unit has strengthened the capacities of ten multipurpose cooperatives (MPCs) leading to them acquiring licenses as seed retail outlets. With the MPCs selling seed, this process increased access of 7,315 smallholder to 533 t of quality seed.

Crowdsourcing of farmers’ preferences
Nationally, ISSD has continued to expand crowdsourcing data on farmers’ preferences. The process enables debriefing stakeholders including seed producers and distributors on most demanded products.

System-wide innovations
The regional workshops enabled rich reflection on these innovations and identified ways to overcome barriers to their scaling. See our website for more details on ISSD’s work on these innovations.

The regional workshops also enabled stakeholders to contribute to a proposed digital seed marketing platform. Stakeholders expressed enthusiasm and design ideas for the idea which ISSD and Bioversity will move forward with.