Enhancing seed quality assurance

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Margaret McEwan
Margaret McEwan

Key challenge

Seed quality assurance is an important aspect of seed production and marketing when aiming for improving farmers’ access to seed of high quality. In theory, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have full-fledged seed certification systems, but in practice these systems face many challenges, and often do not function well. Alternative, simplified, more localized and cost effective mechanisms of seed quality assurance, like Quality Declared Seed (QDS) have been described. However, experiences in practice, bringing these systems to scale, and making them manageable and affordable, are scarce. There are few if any data that quantitatively compare the cost effectiveness of these local quality assurance systems with that of formal seed certification.

Convincing data are needed for policy makers to consider local quality assurance mechanisms as appropriate alternative options. Furthermore, existing information on local quality assurance mechanisms is fragmented and suffers important gaps; this information should be improved and made readily available to decision makers. At a higher level of outcome and in the long-term, this topic envisions the mainstreaming and scaling of sustainable local quality assurance systems.

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Action learning questions

  1. How to enhance the efficiency of decentralized quality assurance mechanisms? This question takes into consideration the required capacities, technologies and associated costs.
    a. What are the novel technologies available for making these quality assurance systems cost effective? For example, this question looks at novel approaches in diagnostic and communication technologies.
    b. What are experiences in and outside of Africa of effective, sustainable local quality assurance mechanisms?
  2. How to promote the development of policies and regulations allowing for local quality assurance mechanisms? 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.
    a. What is the room for local quality assurance options within regional harmonized seed sector regulation?
    b. What are winning strategies to make local quality assurance an acceptable option?
  3. How can value chain pull promote the development and sustainability of local quality assurance?

Activities and outcomes

The action learning project aims to have seed sector stakeholders responding positively to greater flexibility in quality assurance options. This will be achieved through an inventory of local quality assurance experiences, selection and analysis of promising cases based on this inventory and developing and sharing working papers and policy briefs including recommendations on local quality assurance mechanisms, and pilot these in interested countries.