Enhancing seed quality assurance

Summary

Seed quality assurance (QA) is a key component of seed production and marketing so that farmers can access new varieties and high quality seed. In theory, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have fully-fledged seed certification systems.

However, in practice these systems face many challenges, and often do not function well. Simplified, decentralised and cost-effective mechanisms for seed quality assurance exist, e.g. Quality Declared Seed (QDS). However, while there are examples of pilots of different variants of QDS; practical experiences of bringing these systems to scale and making them manageable and affordable are scarce.

There are few if any quantitative data that compare the cost effectiveness of different types of QA systems with formal seed certification; nor how elements of the different systems might be complementary.

This topic will consolidate existing data on decentralised QA approaches; seek to fill important gaps through in depth case studies; and ensure that this information is readily available and contributes to policy dialogue on appropriate and inclusive QA systems. 

At a higher level, this topic envisions the mainstreaming and scaling of sustainable QA systems through appropriate seed regulatory frameworks. The topic is led by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Action learning questions

How can the efficiency of decentralized QA mechanisms be enhanced? This question takes into consideration the required technologies, capacities, and associated costs.

  1. What are the experiences of effective sustainable QA mechanisms from inside and outside of Africa? Country context: history of piloting, acceptance and regulatory change; political economy around change.
  2. What are the novel technologies available for making these quality assurance systems cost effective? For example, novel approaches in diagnostic and communication technologies. Elements to study: cost effectiveness, regulatory analysis – how embedded, independent testing of quality of seed.
  3. Under what conditions can decentralised QA mechanisms work and what are the implications for inclusion and equity; e.g. what role does the commodity value chain play in pulling demand for quality seed and sustainability of QA?

How can greater flexibility and options for decentralised QA mechanisms, which can be used by different types of seed producers, be promoted in the development of seed policies and regulations? This question will be addressed at national but also sub-regional levels, aiming for light policy frameworks, and looking at changes needed in the current seed regulations.

  1. What is the room for decentralised QA options within regional harmonized seed sector regulation?
  2. What are the winning strategies to make decentralised QA an acceptable option for decision makers?

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Seed regulatory bodies, extension agencies and different types of seed producers, incorporate lessons from the review of QA experiences in at least two cases

Outcome 2: Lessons from the validation of novel disease diagnostic tools and the use of ICT platforms as part of a QA system shared with next users