Strengthening EGS production & supply through systems thinking

The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EAIR) and Regional Agricultural Research Institutes (RARIs) are key seed sector stakeholders. These institutes have a lead role in variety development, variety maintenance and quality EGS production. To support and strengthen their efforts ISSD provided a training to these organisations staff, highlighting the opportunities that the ISSD approach and adopting a systems perspective could present.

One of the intervention areas of ISSD Ethiopia is to improve the system of Early Generation Seed (EGS) (breeder, pre-basic and basic seed) production and supply. In this area, ISSD Ethiopia collaborates with national and regional research institutes. The training was organized specifically for research staff involved in EGS production as well as varietal maintenance.

While the staff of these institutes are technically very competent and contribute to the on-going developments in the seed sector, there is agreement that their work can be enhanced through awareness of the concepts behind seed systems, the integrated seed sector development approach and related seed policies.

Integrated perspective crucial
The training explored a timeline of seed sector developments and issues, unpacking the value chain and the roles and experiences of actors in the past and currently. And to understand how encountered issues can be addressed, participants learned about ISSD’s integrated approach and how to apply its principles and thinking.

A goal of ISSD staff in providing the training was to highlight to the participants the crucial role they play; their position in this integrated system and how their work contributes to the functioning of seed value chains and the Ethiopian seed sector as whole.

The commitment and contribution of these institutes to the development of a functional EGS system is essential for the effective operation of seed value chains in Ethiopia, so this sectoral awareness is essential. The institutes are key if seed producers are to get access to sufficient quantities of quality EGS of a wide range of crops and varieties. Doing so is the central way for farmers to access quality seed of preferred varieties.

New insights and ideas
52 participants from five research institutes (EIAR, ARARI, IQQO, SARI & TARI) attended the training which was provided by three senior members of BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia; Dr. Amsalu Ayana, ISSD Ethiopia Programme Manager; Dr. Mohammed Hassena, ISSD Ethiopia Deputy Programme Manager; and Dr. Marja Thijssen, Senior Advisor at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation.

Participants expressed great interest in discussing the socio-cultural trends around seed sector development, which enabled them to visualise their position. Unpacking and assessing the seed value chain enabled participants to grasp the concepts of ‘value chain’ and ‘sector’ and their role in shaping both. Discussions on policy frameworks provided welcome new insights into developments relating to their field, while specific presentations on seed quality control and seed quality assurance provided space for participants to voice and discuss issues closely related to their specific activities.

Collaboration on the development of a new EGS system
The exploration of such diverse topics led to a final discussion on the development of a system of EGS supply. Collaboration between the research centres and ISSD was agreed to be key in this collaborative endeavour, with participants highlighting strategic support activities for ISSD:

  1. Supporting and guiding planning for EGS production and supply
  2. Documenting and disseminating experiences and learning
  3. Supporting the institutionalisation of specific roles among other actors engaged in seed production
  4. Facilitating the implementation of plant variety protection (PVP) protocols, including exclusive user rights of public varieties, which will encourage EGS and certified seed production, as well as the promotion of newly released varieties
  5. Developing a national seed supply and demand information database to facilitate information sharing and stimulate seed market linkages.

Alongside the identification of expected roles for ISSD, each research centre identified specific priorities for their centre to address:

Research Centre Prioritized actions
EIAR (2 groups) 1.     Internal and external quality control

2.     EGS distribution based on contract agreement

3.     Post-harvest management

4.     Supporting off-season EGS production

ARARI 1.     Supply of quality seed

2.     Ensuring the implementation of EGS production as planned

IQQO 1.     Maintain quality standard of the seed

2.     Strengthening the linkage between agreement provider and contractor

SARI 1.     Strong follow up for remaining EGS activities on quality

2.     EGS planned but not implemented to be done by irrigation

TARI 1.     Quality maintenance practices

2.     On time seed delivery according to agreement


Strengthening the system
The training took place as part of ISSD’s work to establish well-functioning seed value chains. ISSD Ethiopia is supporting the development of different business models for sustainable EGS production. Next to strengthening the capacity of research institutes, another model sees EGS production by seed producer cooperatives under the supervision of breeders. This model would potentially address issues where some research centres have a shortage of land to multiply EGS.

With our partners, our aim on EGS is to establish a system by which producers and buyers make agreements one year in advance and plan and complete transactions based on those agreements. In 2018, agreements have been made at two levels. The first is among producers and buyers within a regional state, which is intended to ensure regional EGS self-sufficiency. The second one is between regional buyers and national producers, which is intended to fill the gaps in the regions.