Enabling seed policies

Key challenge

The policy environment in Sub-Saharan Africa greatly influences the quality, production, and use of seeds and planting materials, and the resulting outcomes in agricultural productivity. However, many countries lack coherent and enabling policies and regulations for the seed sector, and in a handful of African countries that have adopted policy reforms in recent years, implementation had not led to demonstrable outcomes in seed use. This may be partly due to the lack of clear implementation steps (national seed plans) for the policies that have been enacted. Implementation failures may also be due to a lack of awareness of the trade-offs and pitfalls that await policy reforms. Beyond implementation challenges, there are gaps in the content of seed policies. For example, seed policies may not adequately recognize the need for managing agro-biodiversity to maintain the sources of genetic resources. Although the movement of agricultural inputs across borders in SSA is common, policies may not address incentives for trade without difficulties and delays. Seed policies often fail to recognise the social benefits of informal seed systems that are based on community-based trust, exchange, and sharing.

Action learning questions

  1. What is the existing process for countries to formulate or review or reform a supportive and enabling national seed policy? How do countries review and revise national seed policies, and how can policy change processes better address the complementarities between formal and informal seed systems, public and private sector interests, and commercial versus food security uses of crops and commodities?

  2. To what extent are regional (e.g. COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS), continental (e.g. the AU model law), and global coordination, harmonization, and trade feasible and beneficial to seed system development in Africa?

  3. What type of policy mechanisms can accelerate seed-system innovation, technology transfers, and meaningful partnerships that improve smallholder access to improved varieties and quality seed?

Activities and outcomes

This action learning project will influence public policy formulation and implementation on seed systems and markets through policy reviews, collaborative research, and knowledge-sharing. The key problem that this work will address is the lack of coherent, effective policy (in the sense of both articulation and on-the-ground results) across many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the context of the overall ISSD project, this activity will provide support to policies that will strengthen the integration of formal and informal seed systems, delineate public and private sector roles, ensure that incentives for innovation are not hampered, and remove other constraints to the supply and adoption of improved varieties and quality seed.