Friday, May 6, 2011

Agricultural experts push for a strong seed sector in West Africa

Underlining that seed security is a prerequisite for achieving food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and AfricaRice convened a ‘Regional workshop on seed policy in West Africa’ in Cotonou, Benin on 5 and 6 May. The workshop was inaugurated by HE Michel Sogbossi, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Benin.

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

The agricultural experts who participated in the workshop 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, cowpea and maize.

The workshop stressed 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.

Key recommendations targeted to specific stakeholder groups were made by the participants to enable a sustainable seed production and distribution effort in the sub-regions, including the needs 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 private sectors 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 seed policies
·         Develop regulatory frameworks for rapid and sustainable growth of the seed industry
·         Ensure the participation of the whole range of actors in the formulation of seed policies.