"Discussions on Seed Policy Harmonization and Domestication within and across countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) started back in the late 80s and yet very little progress has been made”. This statement kick-started discussions during a dialogue on the preliminary findings of a regional study on the status of SADC/COMESA seed policy harmonization and domestication, which was commissioned by the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) under the Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA).
The dialogue, which attracted over 60 key regional stakeholders, was co-hosted with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) on the 6th of June 2023, in Durban – South Africa as a side-event under the 8th Africa Agribusiness and Science week.
The study targeted APPSA-implementing countries following the need to provide them with an enabling seed policy and regulatory environment for easy cross-border exchange or trade of crop-based improved technologies, a critical element for this project. APPSA is a six-year World Bank-funded initiative that from 2013 to 2019 was implemented collaboratively by Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, and currently is focusing on Angola and Lesotho with the expectation that research outputs will be able to move without hurdles across borders to benefit the entire region.
APPSA is based on the collaborative implementation of Research and Development (R&D) between two or more countries from the region. Angola and Lesotho are currently implementing together 43 R&D subprojects geared towards developing and/or disseminating improved technologies. However, each country has its own specific seed policies and regulations which may greatly affect the inter-country movement of crop-based improved technologies.
The side event on SADC/COMESA seed policy harmonization and domestication started with a presentation of key findings of the study by Dr. Claid Mujaju (Director of Agricultural Research Innovation and Development in Zimbabwe). This was followed by a panel discussion with different key players in the seed value chain. These were Dr. Grace Kaudzu (Director of Agricultural Research Services in Malawi), Dr. Gorden Mabuyaye (Global Head of Research and Development at Seed Co in Zimbabwe), Mr. Justin Simukonde (Farmers’ representative from Zambia), Mr. Bruce Simbunji (Chief Seed Technologist at Seed Control and Certification Institute in Zambia), and Dr. Justify Shava (Head of SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre). The panel discussion was facilitated by Ms. Sithembile Mwamakamba, Director of Policy Research and Analysis at FANRPAN.
According to Dr. Mujaju, 3 aspects are critical in seed policy harmonization and domestication, namely: variety registration and release systems, seed certification and quality assurance, and quarantine and phytosanitary measures. “Harmonization of the SADC/COMESA seed regulatory systems will provide a vehicle for disseminating technologies from phase 1 APPSA countries and collaborating institutions operating outside the region to APPSA phase 2 countries and vice-versa”, emphasized Dr. Mujaju.
Overall, the study confirmed the existing gaps between countries in terms of seed policy and harmonization with SADC and COMESA systems. It is also identified as key enablers for harmonization: financial support, legislative alignments, trained human resources, infrastructure and tools of the trade, raising awareness for seed companies to use harmonized seed regulatory systems, and piloting implementation.
In conclusion, delegates highlighted the need to join forces so that no country should be left behind in the seed harmonization and domestication drive. The pivotal role of the private sector was noted and so was the need for robust advocacy campaigns to bring on board policymakers at the country level.
Watch the full discussion from the video below: