Thursday, April 23, 2015

AfricaRice and CSIR-SARI launch a USAID-funded project to develop a sustainable rice seed system in Ghana

The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) jointly launched a 3-year project to stimulate the development of a sustainable rice seed system in the Northern and Upper East Regions of Ghana. The project, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with a total of USD 1.4 million, was launched on 21 April 2015 at the CSIR-SARI Conference Hall in Nyankpala, Northern Region. USAID is simultaneously funding a similar project in five other countries in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Representatives of the partner organizations that attended the project launching discussed and confirmed the project’s objectives, deliverables and implementation plan.

Under this project, AfricaRice will provide Technical Assistance (TA) for (i) seed sector organization and planning to connect actors producing different categories of seed; (ii) capacity building in quality breeder seed production at CSIAR-SARI, private seed company support in close collaboration with other USAID partners (for foundation and certified seed) and farmer organizations (for quality declared seed); (iii) assessing and recommending optimal best-bet equipment for seed harvesting, processing and conditioning; and (iv) quality seed use promotion. The project also seeks to develop a sustainable rice seed system in the savannah ecological zone.

The project is being implemented by AfricaRice in collaboration with the CSIR-SARI, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the Agricultural Technology Transfer (ATT) project funded by the USAID. Other ongoing Feed the Future (FTF) and USAID-funded activities for boosting the rice sector in Northern Ghana, in particular the Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE – Phase II), project will also participate. AfricaRice will work closely with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’s Program for African Seed Systems (PASS) and the USAID West Africa Seed Project (WASP). The new Ghana FTF Policy Project is expected to play a vital role in establishing an enabling environment for the private sector to develop the rice seed sector.

The project comes at the right time as rice has become the second most important food crop after maize in Ghana. One of the key bottlenecks identified by the USAID mission and technical and financial partners involved in rice sector development in Ghana is lack of access to quality rice seed. Despite all the projects on the ground, the reality is that Ghana’s rice producers are unable to access quality rice seed. All categories of seed production are entirely dependent on ad-hoc project funding. There is no coherent seed planning and categories of seed are not linked. Seed inspection capacity is inadequate. As a result, quantities and quality of foundation and certified seed produced are very low compared to what would be required to boost Ghana’s rice production.

The main policy objective of the government of Ghana is to ensure that public services devoted to the production of the early classes of seed are optimized to form a strong foundation for the seed industry and to strongly support the private sector to take up responsibility for the production of the certified seed class, initially assisting them with the outputs from the public sector mandated agencies and cushioning them to progressively develop their own breeder and foundation seeds as soon as possible. This policy objective is to support the informal seed sector to integrate with the formal sector and systematically upgrade some of its practices with a view to portions of it eventually evolving into the formal seed sector and enhancing the growth of the formal sector.

Mr Boubakary Cisse, Coordinator of the project, made a presentation on the project’s objectives, outputs, activities and partners that will be involved in its implementation.

During a press interview, Dr Olupomi Ajayi, overall supervisor of the project in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, , said: “This project is unique because at the end of the project, we must leave behind a rice seed system that functions well and is sustainable and its impact should be felt by everyone involved in the seed system”. He then expressed gratitude to USAID for providing the financial support for the project, which would address the constraints and opportunities identified in the country’s national seed policy.

Mr Brian Conklin, Deputy Office Director/Agriculture Team Leader, Office of Economic Growth of USAID, Ghana called for effective collaboration with other rice sector projects, to ensure the transformation of the country’s rice industry. He said that USAID was already supporting other projects in the agriculture sector in the country and pledged his organization’s intention to continue with such interventions to make the rice industry attractive to improve the fortunes of farmers.

The Director of CSIR-SARI, Dr Stephen Nutsugah, commended the USAID for their support and urged farmers, agro-input dealers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the successful implementation of the project. He said that the project would collaborate with other rice initiatives/programs to address the challenges facing the country’s rice industry.

The launching was followed on 22 April by the Rice Seed Stakeholders’ meeting which validated the workplan for the seed scaling project and assigned responsibilities for its implementation.

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