ISSD conducted a briefing on institutional mapping and needs assessment of Ethiopia’s public seed regulatory services

On Feb 28, 2020, BENEFIT-ISSD held a half-day briefing on the major findings of an assessment conducted to better understand the Ethiopia public seed sector institutional and regulatory setup to respond to the specific needs of the sector in a more systematic and coordinated way.  The briefing was successful in creating a better understanding on the major regulatory functions of the public seed sector, review activities that are being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and other key actors, discuss major challenges and create a taskforce to oversee the coordination efforts towards improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the sector.  The briefing was attended by over 20 participants from Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), GIZ, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), Ethiopia Seed Association (ESA), AGRA, and BENEFIT –ISSD staff members.

Following a welcome remark by Dr. Amsalu  Ayana, ISSD Manager, the opening remark was given by MoA Seed Regulatory Director General, Dr. Woldehawarit Assefa who talked about the newly approved seed policy that focuses on facilitating the inclusion of the private sector, variety protection, seed quality control, quarantine, coordination, etc. He acknowledged the valuable contribution of ISSD towards improving Ethiopia seed sector and expressed his hope that this meeting will lead to a more coordinated effort to strengthen and improve the current MoA seed regulatory efforts.

The presentation by Dr. Mohammed Hassana, ISSD Deputy Director, focused on data source and  methodology used, policies, laws, regulations and directives already in place, the seed regulatory structure at both federal and region levels and issues related to quality assurance, certification, protection of breeders rights, varieties release, quarantine, staffing (management and technical), branches and laboratories in the regions etc.

Following the presentation, the participants discussed level of autonomy that can be applied taking the strength of the current regulatory system into consideration; challenges related to certification process (lack of autonomy given to the seed producers, lack of private inspection system, limited access and capacity of existing laboratories); issues related to slow varieties release submitted by the private sector (high cost and capacity to perform trials by the government and research institutes); challenges in quality assurance that is mostly the responsibility of the government; quarantine issues (physical mobility, time constraint, lack of capacity, accountability and reliability and lack of accredited laboratory).

Some of the recommendation put forward included upgrading our existing laboratories to international standard; equipping and modernizing our quality assurance system; provision of service based on a cost recovery basis; building the capacity of the regulatory structure; starting a pilot for an independent variety testing service under MoA; and improving quarantine service for seed import and export etc.

It was noted that, a well-functioning regulatory seed sector is crucial to attract private companies and safe guard the interest of the farmer to access quality seed. This requires working on regulatory capacity of both the public and private systems and coordinate efforts of those supporting the sector.

A group exercise was conducted where each organization was given an opportunity to share their planned activities in relation to the five major functions of the regulatory system for the coming five year;   (i) variety release and registration; (ii) Protecting plant breeders rights; (iii) phytosanitary services; (iv) seed quality assurance; (v) issuing import and export permits.

At the end of the briefing, a taskforce to be led by the MoA Regulatory Directorate was formed to facilitate coordination efforts and monitor progress.  As the first secretariat to serve the taskforce, ISSD will develop a ToR that will guide the taskforce efforts.  The members include representative from ATA, AGRA, EKN, ESA, MoA and ISSD.

The meeting was facilitated by Joep van den Broek, Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR.

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