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Consolidating efforts for EGS delivery in Uganda

ICRISAT and NaSARRI, in conjunction with NARO Holdings Limited convened a stakeholders meeting aimed at consolidating efforts for delivery of early generation seeds (EGS) in Uganda. The meeting objectives were (1) to sensitize stakeholders on the framework for licensing of NARO plant varieties and access to EGS but also the digital seed tracking and traceability system; (2) to develop strategies for effective demand articulation and sustainable production and supply of quality assured EGS; (3) to develop an EGS strategy. The meeting that was held in from 6-8 July, 2022 at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala, was attended by key actors from both the public and private sectors. Participants included: breeders and seed experts from the research organizations ICRISAT, AGRA and NARO; representatives of Seed Companies, Local Seed Businesses, other community-based seed producers and Uganda Seed Traders Association (USTA), seed experts from ISSD Uganda, national seed regulators from Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and grain off-takers.

Photo by Victoria Mbigidde, NAROSEC:  Group photo of the participants at Silver Springs Hotel

In their opening statements, the representatives of various organizations highlighted the importance of the meeting and themes booked.

As the representative of NARO, Deputy Director General in-charge of Agricultural Technology Promotion, Dr. Asea Godfrey reiterated the validity and importance of the meeting given the challenges at hand such as the lack of a framework for crop variety renewal, quality and information descriptors and the internal quality management system.

Dr Hilary Agaba the country’s EGS Task Force Chair, emphasized the need for stakeholders to commit and work together for achievement of the goal to sustainably supply EGS in the country.

Professor Patrick Okori, Principal Scientist and Seed Systems theme Lead at ICRISAT, highlighted to the participants the critical components for seed delivery and reiterated the importance of the public sector playing a lead role in the endeavors for sustainable seed delivery. He urged participants about the need to critically think of what is needed now but also in the future for development of sustainable solutions for EGS delivery.

Ms. Lilian Gichuri of AGRA, presented AGRA’s initiatives and lessons learned on EGS delivery in the region and beyond. She also introduced the SeedSAT program, a tool for undertaking in-depth seed system analysis with governments and other stakeholders leading to improvements that increase the delivery and use of improved varieties of seed.  She said, the tool leverages on the information aggregated from existing resources and assessments.

The participants were introduced to the overview of ISSD Africa, EGS components. The pilot, the “pre-booking EGS” model, being implemented by NaSARRI was highlighted. The Pilot entails signing of Memorandums of Understanding with seed producers that are integrated in a system of grain production and off-take. Production of basic seed is handled at NaSARRI and does not go through NARO holding limited.

To collect participants’ input to develop the strategy, participants were divided in groups to come up with building blocks towards Early Generation Seed Strategy Development for Uganda guided by various themes. The group composition included various stakeholder categories e.g., Breeders, seed companies, LSBs, grain up takers, donor partners/development partners. Inputs collected were along the following lines: strengths of EGS production and supply systems in Uganda; how to use them to keep momentum; weaknesses of EGS production and supply systems in Uganda; how to effectively address them to sustain EGS? key actors of EGS in Uganda; current OR Actual roles in EGS; expected OR What OR Suggested roles for sustainable production and supply; what else is needed; how to get it done; delivery partnerships for EGS in Uganda; and finally sustainable resources mobilization to sustain EGS-PSS.

Photo by Umar Kyeyune, NaSARRI: Participants during group discussions during the meeting

The three days meeting saw participants deeply brainstorm and analyze the key challenges and strengths in the sector and especially issues that affected them in their respective capacities while exploring and recommending solutions to address the critical issues identified. The key challenges that emerged from the discussions were prioritized along 8 major themes including (1) Ineffective demand articulation system, (2) Ineffective quality assurance system, (3) Low variety turnover, (4) Weak coordination of knowledge and information within the value chain, (5) Limited enforcement of laws and policies, (6) Financing and its management, (7) Weak Institutional Framework (partnerships, capacities, networks), and (8) Weak human capital issues

The key output from the meeting was a draft strategy with key action points for ensuring an inclusive process for the final national EGS strategy. The EGS strategy document developed for Uganda through joint stakeholders’ workshop came up with five thrusts (1) Effective and efficient planning, coordination, and accountability of EGS, (2) Strong and diversified EGS business for a growing and diversified agricultural sector, (3) Partnerships for increased EGS value chain productivity, (4) Strengthen capacities for enhanced national EGS value chain operation, (5) Strengthening financing, policy and regulation environment for EGS value chains. The first draft document is ready and is being reviewed for quality enhancement by key experts from national or international arenas.

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