The Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) at Seed Connect Africa 2021

The Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) was once again in the spotlight, this time at Seed Connect Africa 2021. The event organized by the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) and its partners, is the single largest gathering of seed sector stakeholders in West Africa. This was the fourth edition of the event hosted in Abuja, Nigeria between the 29th and 30th of November 2021 and it had in attendance seed sector stakeholders from across Africa and beyond. The theme of the event “Partnership for a resilient and robust seed industry in Nigeria” positively aligned with the ambition of the CSP.

The event was declared open by the Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, amidst several goodwill messages by other key stakeholders. It featured eight discussion panels where seed sector experts addressed critical thematic areas in the industry. In addition, there was an exhibition center with several booths showcasing input businesses and programmes in the seed sector. The exhibition center created an avenue for learning, networking, and partnerships among stakeholders in the sector.

The CSP – a collaboration between Nigerian and Dutch seed sector stakeholders – facilitated a session under the umbrella of the Nigeria-Netherlands Seed Partnership (NNSP). It brought together a diverse team of experts in the Nigerian Seed Sector to discuss the topic “Developing Seed Markets and Increasing Farmers’ Demand for Quality Seeds”. Participants at the session emphasized the importance of a functional seed market in catalyzing a robust seed sector in Nigeria. They reflected on gaps and identified opportunities for improvement in the seed market.

Chinedu Agbara, the Nigerian programme coordinator of the CSP, described the challenges hindering a robust seed market, and the strategies to tackle these challenges, as identified by the National Seed Road Map (NSRM). According to him, limited awareness of quality seeds and improved varieties, low investment by seed companies in marketing and promotion, and poorly implemented seed subsidies by institutional players, among others, hindered the development of efficient seed markets. He also stated that the NSRM identified five (5) Strategic Innovation Pathways (SIPs) to achieve an efficient, fair, and transparent seed market, and the Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) is addressing three of these pathways.

The presentation was followed by a plenary session chaired by Dr. Marja Thijssen of WUR, the Dutch Programme Manager of the CSP, with support from Ekum Ojogu, Chief Agricultural Officer of NASC. The co-chairs jointly lead the Seed Sector Platform topic of the CSP. The selected panelists shared some great and practical insights on the topic of concern. Prof. Aisha Abdulkadir, who leads the Extension on Seed and Cultivation Practices topic of the CSP, had recently conducted a baseline study on challenges affecting farmers’ adoption of quality vegetable seeds of improved varieties in Kaduna. She highlighted a key finding from the study that farmers’ slow rate of adoption was due to the unavailability of quality seeds of improved varieties, and lack of credit to invest in seeds. She asserted that a formal system involving a strong connection between markets and farmers, and improved availability of credit and seeds is crucial to increasing farmers’ use of quality seeds of improved varieties.

Mr. Adigun Stephen, Communication Officer at the Seed Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN), encouraged seed companies to invest in demonstration plots to promote the adoption of quality seeds of improved varieties by farmers. He also advised that seed companies leverage agro-dealers to increase access to farmers in rural areas. His words were echoed by Mr. Olumide Ibikunle, the Commercial Lead for Corteva Agrisciences Seeds in Nigeria and West Africa, who affirmed that seed companies need to conduct demonstrations. He added that institutional forces including NGOs and the government should avoid distorting the market by distributing free seeds but should focus on creating an enabling environment for farmers and input providers.

On the role of government in promoting efficient seeds markets, Dr. Jimmy Zidafamor, Director of Seed Coordination and Management Services at NASC, provided some excellent insights. He stated that the government should develop policies that create an enabling environment for seed markets and ensure consistency of these policies irrespective of a change in leadership. It is also critical that they create awareness of quality seeds and improved varieties and develop infrastructure that supports efficient agricultural activities.

The Seeds 4 Change (S4C) programme under the NNSP has recorded incredible success in the vegetable sector by providing high-quality seeds and training farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Kabir Ademoh, the local coordinator for S4C, explained that the programme adopts a collaborative approach involving trials and demonstrations of over 30 varieties. Farmers were grouped into impact clusters which made data collection on the preferences of farmers easier, and the insights generated were shared with seed companies to guide their strategies and investments.

Following a question-and-answer session led by Ekum Ojogu, the session officially came to an end. Marja Thijssen and Ekum Ojogu thanked all participants and panelists and reiterated the importance of working collaboratively to develop efficient, fair, and transparent seeds markets.

In summary, low-level adoption of improved seed is still prevalent in the Nigerian seed sector. The possible reasons are multifaceted including the unstructured nature of the informal market, the diverse perception of farmers on seed support, and the unavailability of quality seeds of improved varieties. The panelists recommended the provision of ancillary services in remote seed production clusters, and aggressive promotional programs by seed companies to enhance farmers’ knowledge on the potentials of quality seeds of improved varieties and bridge the gap between demand and supply.

The role of the NSRM in seed sector development cannot be overemphasized. The NSRM details the challenges in the sector and identifies the strategic pathways to promoting growth and development. Stakeholders must work together to implement the strategic pathways that will build a competitive, resilient, profitable, sustainable, inclusive, transparent, and innovative seed sector.

The CSP and NNSP Exhibition Stand 

The CSP also had an exhibition booth which was visited by representatives from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, and other stakeholders in the sector.

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