Saturday, May 14, 2011

Agricultural experts push for a strong seed sector in West Africa

13 May 2011 19:57 Africa/Lagos

Agricultural experts push for a strong seed sector in West Africa

COTONOU, May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Underlining that seed security is a prerequisite for achieving food security, agricultural experts participating in the just-concluded Regional Workshop on Seed Policy in West Africa urged decision-makers to support the sustainable growth and development of the West African seed sector, particularly for food security crops, such as rice, millet, sorghum, cowpeas and maize.

The experts recommended the need to formulate, adopt, and implement coherent strategies and policies at regional and national levels for the rapid development of viable seed enterprises which would help increase the steady supply of quality seed to millions of smallholder farmers in West Africa.

The workshop was jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) in Cotonou, Benin. It was inaugurated by His Excellency Michel Sogbossi, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Government of Benin.

“Strong research programs and solid seed systems are crucial to give farmers access to better varieties and quality seeds,” said Dr. Marco Wopereis, AfricaRice Deputy Director General & Director for Research at the workshop, which provided an overview of the current status of the West African seed sector as well as the challenges and opportunities associated with it.

Seed entrepreneurs in the sub-region face many challenges because of the absence of coherent seed policies, poor infrastructure and lack of access to improved seed, complementary inputs, production technologies, credits and training.

Highlighting the importance of developing national seed policies, Dr. Robert Guéi, Senior Officer from FAO, remarked that the seed industry was relatively more developed in other regions of Africa than in Central and West Africa.

“Until now only a few countries in West Africa, such as Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Benin, etc., have formulated and passed a coherent seed policy, while a few others are in the process of doing so,” Dr. Guéi said.

Key recommendations targeted to specific stakeholder groups were made by the participants to enable a sustainable seed production and distribution effort to take off in the sub-regions. These include the need to:

• Develop improved varieties and ensure their rapid delivery through effective seed systems;

• Develop national action plans to support the sustainable development of seed industries;

• Strengthen partnerships between the public and the private sector on seed-related issues, with clear delineation of their respective roles;

• Develop the capacity of the formal and informal seed sectors;

• Integrate a value-chain approach in the seed policies;

• Develop regulatory frameworks for rapid and sustainable growth of the seed industry; and

• Ensure the participation of the whole range of actors in the formulation of seed policies.

“A true partnership among all the actors will be the basis for success to develop a strong seed sector in West Africa,” said Dr. Rita Agboh-Noameshie, AfricaRice scientist, who coordinated the workshop in partnership with FAO.

The workshop was attended by decision-makers from 11 countries in West Africa and from Madagascar. Representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD/CORAF), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), the African Seed Network (ASN), FAO and AfricaRice also took part.

Source: Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

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