The Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) is a four-year programme that contributes to improving the sustainable income, food, and nutrition security of rural households in Nigeria. The programme aims to achieve these objectives by improving farmer’s access to and use of quality seeds of improved varieties. Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, represented by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Abuja, the CSP contributes to the vision of the National Seed Road Map (NSRM) which is to develop a seed sector that is competitive, resilient, profitable, innovative, and adaptive, sustainable, inclusive, resistant, and transparent.
The CSP is embedded within the Nigeria-Netherlands Seed Partnership (NNSP). The CSP and NNSP operate under the umbrella of the SeedNL, a partnership of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Plantum, the Seed Trade Association of the Netherlands. It brings together over twenty-two (22) seed sector stakeholder organizations from Nigeria and Netherlands to transform the Nigerian seed sector. Implementing partners of CSP are Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited (SCANL), Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Plantum, and Naktuinbouw.
The outcomes of the programme are:
- Enhanced capacity of the seed sector to provide high quality, inclusive and differentiated services to seed producers and seed value chain actors.
- Enhanced efficiency, fairness and transparency of seed value chains and seed markets.
- Enhanced coordination, alignment, and accountability among different seed stakeholders.
- Enhanced rules and systems that govern seed markets, production systems, service delivery, and coordination.
The NSRM outlines twenty-two (22) strategic pathways to achieving the vision of the Nigerian seed sector and the CSP will tackle eight (8) of these strategic pathways in its implementation period.
Decentralization of Seed Quality Assurance
The human, technical, and operational capacity, including the available seed laboratories and vehicles in regional offices, of the National Agricultural Seeds Council, are not yet fully equipped in accordance with the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) nor able to cope with the industry’s demand. Therefore, NASC is unable to meet the national and diverse demand for seed quality assurance services by seed companies, seed producers, community-based seed production (CBSP) schemes, and local seed entrepreneurs.
The CSP is working closely with NASC to operationalize and institutionalize the strategy of accreditation of third-party field inspection, seed testing, and certification. Through comparative study, the Topic will identify appropriate modalities, standards, and protocols for third-party certification of different crops, including vegetables and potatoes. This Topic is also implemented through participation in an African community of practice on decentralization of seed quality assurance. The project will pilot modalities, learn lessons, and support scaling to diverse crops and multiple zones in Nigeria. It will support the development and deployment of digital solutions and train relevant stakeholders at national and international levels.
Extension on Seed and Cultivation Practices
Increasing crop productivity and closing the yield gap for all crops in Nigeria requires a combination of quality seeds of improved varieties and advanced cultivation practices. If both interventions are not utilized, farmers may not be able to earn back their investment in quality seed. Current low extension agent-to-farmer ratios, combined with limited involvement of seed companies and other seed entrepreneurs in extension support, constrain farmers’ access to knowledge and information on quality seed and advanced cultivation practices that suit their agroecology and farming systems.
CSP will support and train Ahmadu Bello University-Institute for Agricultural Research (ABU-IAR) on the design and implementation of action research addressing current problems that are bottlenecks to increasing farmers’ use of quality seed of improved varieties and required cultivation practices. It will facilitate workshops to establish a pathway for communication between research and extension with the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (NAERLS) and support the development of extension messages promoting farmers’ uptake of quality seed. This topic focuses specifically on vegetables.
Seed Company Marketing and Promotion
The rate of adoption of new varieties and seed replacement of farm-saved with quality seed remains low with implications on crop productivity. Farmers have limited awareness of the benefits, and do not always know what varieties best fit their farming system, agroecology, and market demands. They are not aware of innovations in seed systems.
As part of the Strategic Innovation Pathways on seed company marketing and promotion elaborated in the NSRM, the Collaborative Seed Programme will specifically focus on the establishment of a facility for seed companies to widely demonstrate their new improved varieties to farmers, in combination with improved cultivation practices. The modality, including a private sector co-financing structure, will be developed in collaboration with Plantum and Dutch seed companies, based on experiences with such a modality in other countries and the Seed for Change (S4C) project. The project will provide on-the-ground support to Nigerian and Dutch companies in the establishment of variety demos. Participating companies will shoulder a substantial budget percentage for this output which is of both public and private interest.
Institutional markets (government, NGOs, and development programmes) constitute a major share of the Nigerian seed market. The African Seed Access Index (TASAI, 2019) estimates that institutional markets represent approximately 50% of the total volume of maize and rice seed transacted in the market. While institutional buyers have the potential to power the growth of the seed industry, they are often a leading cause of market distortion. Areas of concern include the size of the demand from institutional markets, the ad-hoc nature of institutional purchases, the inability of institutional buyers to engage in long-term contracts with seed companies, and the practice of procuring seed in bulk. As such, entrepreneurs enter the seed market without the requisite knowledge and skills, a reliable network of seed producers, or common seed business ethics. This reduces the overall functionality of the seed sector as well as the quality of goods and services generated by the industry. With the practice of procuring seed in bulk, institutional players break a critical feature of a healthy seed industry. As a result, farmers don’t know who produced the seed that they grow, and the reputation of seed companies is no longer at stake when selling seeds of substandard quality. The observation was confirmed during the federal government of Nigeria’s initiative, Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES). Even though the aspiration is that normal seed markets grow, institutional markets are expected to continue playing an important role in the coming decade.
The CSP will assess challenges and opportunities in relation to current seed procurement models as well as look at the sustainability of different business models for supplying seed to institutional markets. The project will design alternative modalities and guidelines for market-oriented seed procurement and pilot business-friendly procurement strategies. It will monitor the impact of ongoing practices and share lessons learned on the roles and contributions of institutional players in the marketplace.
Sector Governance and Coordination
The seed sector is complex with different seed systems and seed value chains, and involving a wide range of stakeholders. In its performance, the sector is characterized by limited alignment of stakeholders in their actions and overlapping interventions. The sector is deficient in accountability and has a limited capacity to monitor progress in its development and engage in joint decision-making to tackle its constraints. The promotional and marketing activities of the sector that drive the demand for quality seed of improved varieties is limited.
CSP will support NASC to take up its coordinating role in the seed sector, according to its recently developed strategic plan. It will support the establishment of a national seed platform bringing together stakeholders from government, industry, civil society, and knowledge institutes for sharing, learning, and action planning in relation to the implementation of the NSRM. The project will support studies on strategic seed sector issues and will facilitate sharing of new developments and exploration of their potential of scaling.
Alignment of Donor Interventions
Donor and development organizations intervene both directly and indirectly in the seed sector. Direct efforts target systemic aspects of seed sector development; indirect efforts address particularly the demand, production, marketing, and dissemination of quality seed for strengthening specific crop value chains in focus states, and/or support the development of agribusiness and private sectors.
The CSP will assess seed-related donor interventions and engage through EKN with the Agricultural Donor Working Group (ADWG) to develop a mechanism for coordination and alignment of interventions to the NSRM. Measurement of the development impact of donor interventions in seed and crop value chains will be shared to learn lessons for further improvement.
Plant Variety Protection (PVP)
PVP gives breeders intellectual property rights over a new plant variety, with exclusive rights to commercialize seed and/or propagation material of the variety. PVP promotes the marketing of new varieties and allows breeders to earn back the considerable costs involved in the long process of variety development. A well-functioning PVP system encourages in-country breeding activities; it also attracts foreign companies to introduce high-quality improved varieties, knowing that others cannot easily reproduce and take advantage of their investments in variety development. Nigeria is in the process of passing the PVP Bill. Once passed, the country must put considerable effort into the development and operationalization of a functional PVP system and work on an appropriate enforcement system. The NASC, breeders, and seed companies give high priority to its operationalization. Sector-wide understanding and ownership are crucial for PVP to result in the availability of better varieties for farmers.
CSP and Naktuinbouw will support NASC in the establishment of a PVP system, including advice on the set-up of a PVP office and facilities for testing varieties on Distinctness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS). The project will support the training of staff in Nigeria and the Netherlands and support on-the-ground pilots. In addition, the project will facilitate the PVP awareness creation of seed sector stakeholders in Nigeria.
To ensure that only high-performing and well-adapted varieties enter the seed market, a newly developed variety needs to be officially registered and released. This process involves mandatory on-station testing for DUS, multi-location trials for testing their value for cultivation and use (VCU), and multi-location on-farm trials. Based on the results, the National Crop Varieties Livestock Breeds Registration and Release Committee (NCVLBRRC) approves or rejects registration and release of the new variety. The committee should meet twice a year, but due to budgetary constraints and limited applications, it meets just once a year. Nigeria does not yet enforce the seed policy provisions of ECOWAS on variety release, which, for example, exempt specific vegetables from trials for testing for value for cultivation and use (VCU). Since the numbers of new varieties, as well as turnover of varieties for crops like vegetables, are high, foreign companies find the required efforts for variety release to exceed the benefits. They limit the applications for variety release, which results in farmers’ limited access to better and market demanded varieties.
The collaborative Seed Programme will support the implementation of a more efficient, transparent, and effective system of variety release that complies with the ECOWAS regulations and takes the specific needs of crop groups into account. It will strengthen the capacity of the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), including the development of a digital support modality; and the capacities of National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs), including the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) on variety trials. Pilots will be implemented to find solutions to problems in practice.