Nigeria, Netherlands partners to boost food security with quality seeds

A consortium of implementing partners – Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited (SCANL), Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) – launched the Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) on behalf of the Nigeria-Netherlands Seed Partnership (NNSP).

Over the next four years (2021 – 2025), the CSP will bring together over twenty-two (22) seed sector stakeholders and experts from Nigeria and Netherlands to transform the Nigerian seed sector. Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, represented by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Abuja, CSP contributes to the vision of the Nigerian Seed Road Map (NSRM). The programme will sustainably increase agricultural productivity, income, food, and nutrition security of rural households in Nigeria by improving farmers’ access to and use of quality seeds of new and improved varieties.

The programme was officially launched by the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, represented by Mrs. Karima Babangida, Director of Federal Department of Agriculture Extension, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The event was hosted on a virtual platform and was attended by over 140 Nigerian and Dutch seed sector stakeholders. Mrs. Babangida stated that a functional and robust seed sector is critical to attaining food and nutrition security in Nigeria. In her words “the role of quality seed in the agricultural development of any nation is not in doubt, quality seeds are the fuel for agricultural development”. In addition, she acknowledged that the CSP is another giant step in the right direction and is welcome wholeheartedly by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Ambassador Harry Van Dijk, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Abuja, in his remarks, stated that Nigeria needs to address the rising state of food insecurity given the growing population and climatic pressures. He noted that the use of high-quality seeds is vital to increasing food production and that this informed the decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands to invest in the CSP. He expressed the commitment of Dutch partners to sharing their wealth of experience with Nigerian seed sector stakeholders to develop a high-performing seed sector.

In his remarks, Dr. Phillip Ojo, the Director-General of the NASC, affirmed that CSP is well-fitted to the National Agriculture Agenda of Nigeria. He enjoined implementing partners and seed sector stakeholders to bring their knowledge and expertise and work assiduously to achieve the single goal of a revitalized and purposeful Nigerian seed sector as envisioned in the Nigerian Seed Road Map. Ending his remarks, he expressed confidence that the strategic alliance of stakeholders in the CSP will engender the much-needed realignment of the Nigerian seed industry.

In her address, Ndidi Nwuneli, Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting, highlighted the challenges facing Nigeria including the probable food crises projected by the World Food Programme (WFP). According to her, the transformation of the Nigerian seed sector, which the CSP will contribute to, will serve to close yield gaps, increase food production, and fully unlock the potentials of the Agricultural sector as a catalyst for economic growth and development. Ending her address by citing the African proverb “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”, she enjoined all stakeholders to work together to achieve the ambition of the CSP.

Hedwig Bruggeman, Director of Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, in her remarks, described the CSP as a game-changer for the Nigerian seed sector. She expressed her excitement at the inauguration of the CSP following an extended period of careful planning and collaboration with Sahel Consulting and NASC. In addition, she stated that WCDI will be bringing its expertise and experiences from Asia and several African countries to ensure the success of the CSP and Nigerian Seed Road Map in the long run.

Following the official remarks and keynote address, the Dutch and Nigerian Programme Leads of the CSP, Marja Thijssen of WCDI and Chinedu Agbara of Sahel Consulting, provided an introductory overview of the CSP. According to the programme leads, the CSP will address eight (8) of the twenty-two (22) topics detailed by the Nigerian Seed Road Map (NSRM) to achieve a robust seed sector. The topics to be addressed include: Decentralization of Seed Quality Assurance, Sector Governance and Co-ordination, Extension on Seed and Cultivation Practices, Plant Variety Protection, Seed Company Marketing and Promotion, Variety Release, Alignment of Donor Interventions, and Institutional Markets

CSP will be implemented by eight (8) topic teams comprising relevant Nigerian and Dutch seed sector experts. Topic team members will include representatives of NASC, National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN), National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs), Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), The Institute of Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU-IAR), National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) for the Nigerian stakeholders and WCDI, Wageningen Plant Research (WPR), Plantum, Naktuinbouw for Dutch stakeholders.

The Folarin Okelola of NASC, Nigerian Topic Lead for Plant Variety Protection gave the closing remarks where he expressed his sincere gratitude to the partners and team members of the CSP. He acknowledged that the CSP, a strong partnership between the Netherlands and Nigeria, will deliver maximum impacts in the Nigerian seed sector. In closing, he enjoined all stakeholders to work cohesively and diligently to ensure the achievement of the programme goals.

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