Category Archives: ISSD news

ISSD Amhara unit conducted practical training on seed production, marketing and business plan development

Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Amhara unit organized a training on seed quality management, seed marketing and business plan development for selective Seed Producer Cooperatives’ (SPCs) executive committee members, woreda experts and civil organizers. The training was designed following a gap assessment that showed SPCs capacity limitations in producing quality seed, cooperative organization, marketing, and developing business plans and strategies. The 4 day training was provided during the first week of March and was attended by 30 participants.

Under quality seed production session, the participants covered topics on land preparation, planting season, seed rate, adoption and climate requirement, variety selection, agronomic practices, pest and disease prevention mechanisms, and post-harvest handling on three priority crops (maize, wheat, teff). Issues related to certification, shortage of basic seed, and year to year fluctuation of package recommendation were raised as major challenges.

The second session focused on SPCs’  experience on cooperative organization, management, business and entrepreneurial skills, and effective governance. During this session, the participants had an opportunity to discuss financial and management skill of executive committees members, lack of understanding on share value, limited support of woreda cooperatives, and recruitment of professional staff to run the SPCs as a business.

The third session was designed to fill the skill gaps of seed producers in developing business and strategic plans. The session covered topics on reviewing and investigating alternative, marketing strategies, and how to manage financial risks. Committee members and expert practiced on how to clearly set commercial goals and objectives and outline what resources (human, financial, etc.) will be needed to achieve the commercial objectives; where these resources come from; how to utilize these resources; target production; potential customers and stakeholders etc. The participants presented their business plan for feedback and comments to enrich is further.

The training was valuable and practical, taking our level of  understanding into consideration. Furthermore, the session gave us an opportunity to discuss our cooperatives challenges and develop a business plan.”  W/o Mosit, Sertain Endeg seed producer cooperative                               

“As a new committee, the training taught us how to manage the cooperative using  business plan and  helped us create linkage with relevant stakeholders share basic skills and expereines.” Ato Agmas, Lake Markos seed producer cooperative

 

 

Provision of low interest and collateral-free credit strengthening Seed Producer Cooperatives’ financial system: Lessons learned from ISSD Ethiopia

Despite its rising number of members and increasing seed production, Koticha Kuyu Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) faced significant challenges that were affecting its sustainable development – especially in raising the necessary working capital needed to expand their business and benefit its members. Most members were not capable or willing to increase their contribution in the business and financial institutions are not prepared to offer affordable financial credit.

In response to this challenge, ISSD Ethiopia and the Regional Cooperative Promotion Agency (RCPA) of Oromia analyzed the situation of Koticha Kuyu SPC and facilitated the establishment of a Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo). The aim was to mitigate members’ personal financial constraints through the provision of low interest and collateral-free loans to secure the timely procurement of seed through the provision of input vouchers. The effort resulted in the establishment of Gamachu RuSACCo in 2015.

Koticha Kuyu SPC is located in Lokloka Abe kebele in West Shewa zone, approximately 70km west of Addis Ababa. The SPC was founded in 2013 with 41 members including four women and initial capital of ETB 19,000. Today, the total number of members has reached 59, 12 of whom are women, and their capital has more than doubled. The area under seed production in 2018 was 92.5 ha, which yielded an estimated 1,843 quintal of quality seed.

Since 2015, Gamachu RuSACCo provided ETB 166,700 (~ € 4,765) loan to 93 individual with an interest rate of 5% or less. In 2018, the scheme took off, where 46 SPC members borrowed ETB 131,900 for very low interest rate of 1%. The SPC current savings has reached ETB 230,000. Gamachu RuSACCo has enacted two forms of saving in its cooperative bylaw. The first is a mandatory saving of each member, which was increased from ETB 50 to ETB 100 per month, and the second allows for voluntary monthly savings of whatever is affordable for members. Today, over a fifth of the cooperative’s members contribute ETB 200, more than the mandatory amount of ETB 100 per month.

Lessons Learned

  1. Efficient Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo) significantly reduce SPC’s financial constraints contributing to their sustainable development. The Koticha Kuyu SPC currently has more than 200,000ETB to run its business efficiently.
  2. Time and continuous support is needed to build trust and show evidence on the benefit of RUSACCos to members. In the case of Koticha Kuyu SPC, it took three years to generate the proof of concept needed to convince members to save. While enacting bylaw that stipulates mandatory savings of members was important, voluntary savings from the members’ belief in the value of the scheme are even more powerful. For example, Ato Mulugeta Bekele, member of Gamachu RuSACCo, not only met the mandatory required savings for 2018/19 but made a voluntary contribution of ETB 5340 to his personal savings account. In addition, over time, due to the increasing drop in interest rate (as low as 1%), there is a significant increase in loan frequency and size.
  3. A well-coordinated effort (Koticha Kuyu SPC, Oromia RCPA and ISSD Ethiopia) is relevant to build capacity and provide necessary support through regular monitoring to create an efficient and effective delivery of saving and credit services.

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.

Transforming lives with improved seed varieties: lessons learned from ISSD Mekelle University

This briefing note summarizes the success and lessons learned in introducing new sorghum varieties through crowdsourcing/participatory varietal selection (CS/PVS) interventions and seed multiplication activities in Tigray. It is based on three-year experience of Integrated Seed Sector Development Programme in Ethiopia (ISSD Ethiopia) Mekelle University (MU).

Introduction

Sorghum is a dominant food crop in Asgede Tsimbla Woreda. Prior to 2017, most farmers depended on local varieties that were handed down from farmer-to-farmer, mainly Merewey and Wedi subush. For years, due to the lack of attention given to strengthening the sorghum seed system and minimal effort into introducing new improved varieties, the farmers used low producing and late maturing varieties. The crop was also ignored by the formal research system especially in the north western lowlands of Asgede Tsimbla wereda.

Interventions implemented

In 2017, to better understand the social seed exchange networks embedded in the social system and resolve the pressing challenge in the sorghum production system, ISSD Mekelle University conducted a baseline study on farmers’ access to seed and role of local traders in seed market. The findings showed, a very intertwined seed exchange networks where farmers solely depended on each other to get information and access to quality seed and lack of access to better performing improved varieties.

Based on the recommendations of the study, ISSD MU used crowdsourcing and PVS approaches to facilitate variety deployment and enable farmers identify, use and access varieties that suit their micro climate or locality. CS/PVS approach is in essence a seed research and extension method that strengthens, promotes, and creates demand for new and improved varieties and ultimately increase adoption rate of quality seed. Gender mainstreaming was central in all planning and implementation stages resulting in 48% women farmers participating in crop and variety selection and deployment.

The activities started with awareness creation and building partnership with relevant key stakeholders to facilitate piloting and scaling up of CS/PVS approaches by Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) and Agricultural Research Centers (ARCs) in the region.

New, improved and popular local varieties of sorghum were deployed to 200 farmers in 2017, 400 farmers in 2018, and 350 farmers in 2019. Farmers evaluated the varieties on their farm plots and used both men and women traits preferences to make their selections. Field days were organized to facilitate varietal evaluations by farmers on PVS sites. The farmers ranked Melkam and Meko varieties the best for their early maturity partially addressing the drought issue in the area; good panicle size with high yield and productivity potential; strong short stalks that are wind resistant; shorter plant height easing labor during harvesting especially for women; quality sweet stock suitable for livestock feed; and good grain color and cooking quality (injera).

Following the increasing demand of the selected sorghum varieties, and convinced by the promising performance of Melkam, the Woreda office of agriculture (WoA) agreed to work in farmer clusters for wider area seed multiplication. ISSD in collaboration with the WoA facilitated access for improved Melkam variety and 125 quintals of seed was distributed to 1,224 (155 female) individual farmers for seed multiplication on a 1042 hectare of land.

Results

Since 2017 as many as 25 sorghum varieties were deployed through CS/PVS interventions in Asgede Tsimbla wereda. They have adopted early maturing Melkam variety that brings high yield, easy to harvest, responsive to women needs, better in color and cooking quality. Farmers now own different varieties that respond to the climatic and agronomic demands of the area.

In addition, you see a significant shift from the traditional methods of accessing and using seeds. Farmers testimonies reveled that growing improved varieties is a new tradition and they have learned improved varieties mean better yield that can improve their livelihoods. They also acknowledged the value of engaging women in variety selection and the need to engage them in the seed system.

Challenges

Some of the challenges encountered during the implementation period included limited number of varieties, lack of awareness on the CS/PVS implementation approaches, use of improper plot design and size, poor data collection and management, limited capacity by enumerators and focal persons.

Conclusion

The programme showcased the impact and reach of using CS/PVS as an extension model to increase adoption of improved varieties. With over 25 local varieties, Asgede Tsimbla is becoming a center of diversity for sorghum. Beyond sorghum, farmers now know the value of using improved crop variety seeds, creating new levels of demand for all crops.

Lessons learned and recommendations

  1. CS/PVS is a cost effective approach that is instrumental to promote and reach large number of farmers with many new and improved varieties in short period of time. The approach should be incorporated and institutionalized by the extension system with close collaboration with ARCs;
  2. With the right blend of extension approach and accessibility to new improved seed varieties, farmers are very willing to take up and adopt new varieties;
  3. CS/PVS varietal deployments enables farmers to experiment, evaluate, and identify the best fit varietal for their micro climate;
  4. Creation of seed demand through CS/PVS approach should be followed by coordinated seed multiplication efforts to encourage wider adoption and create sustainable seed source;
  5. To ensure success, interventions should include activities related to capacity building of farmers, experts and enumerators; ensure women are included at all levels of implementation; deploy as many varieties as possible and create linkage and create linkage with ARCs to alleviate the current seed supply shortage.

Improving the Performance of SPCs through Management and Governance Training

ISSD Mekelle University (MU) conducted a training for 30 Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs) executive committees’ members and woreda and kebele experts, with an objective of enhancing their capacity in  cooperative governance and management. Noting the relevance of Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs), in quality seed production of improved and farmer preferred varieties, ISSD in Ethiopia works to improve the management, organizational skills, and technical knowledge of SPCs and strategically link them with relevant partners along the value chain.

A conceptual framework called ‘making seed producers autonomous’ was used to lead the presentations, exercises and discussion on leadership. Techniques used encouraged full participation, learning and experience sharing. Furthermore, exercises and assignments were provided to stimulate learning by doing.  Case studies were used to learn from successes and failure of sample SPCs.

The training covered core concepts on setting vision, goals and targets; identification of problems; SPCs problems alignment; case studies in individual farmers problem and linkage with business; value chains of seed production, marketing and management; cooperatives Sector Development Strategy in a view of Ethiopian context; governance; and financial management.

The training was effective in designing specific action plans to be implemented in the coming few months and ensure SPCs commitment to utilize the techniques  they learned from the training.

The training is intended to address challenges associated to governance and management of cooperative as well as creating smooth relationship with relevant partners and institutions. The participants included members  selected SPC’s who will work with ISSD in  2020.

 

GENDER MAINSTREAMING CONTRIBUTION TO WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN INFORMAL SEED SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT

The second phase of BENEFIT-ISSD (2016-2019) gave special attention to informal seed sector development. Within that context, enhanced empowerment of women in the access and use of quality seed of their preference at household and community level is one of the intermediary outcomes of BENEFIT-ISSD. To achieve this, BENEFIT-ISSD conducted several activities from 2016 to 2019. The attached briefing note “Women Empowerment in Informal Seed System Development” summarizes the activities implemented using crowdsourcing and Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) approaches and the findings of a study on the activities’ contribution towards women’s empowerment.

Awareness raising on seed sector transformation issues and strategies

On October 16, 2019, BENEFIT-ISSD held a one day workshop to share the views presented in “Transforming the Ethiopian Seed Sector: Issues and Strategies” document and explore ways to implement the different ideas and recommendations presented in the document. The meeting was attended by two Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) State Ministers, 21 experts representing three MoA seed related directorates (agricultural input marketing; variety release and inspection; plant quarantine) and 1 general director of extension. The meeting was relevant to raise awareness of the guiding document, ensure that the strategies become part of MoA annual plan and get the commitment of high level officials and experts to implement the strategies to transform each of the seed sector transformation pillars.

During the workshop, the different components of the guiding document were presented by three National Seed Advisory Group (NSAG) group members. The morning session was chaired by H.E. Mrs. Aynalem Nigusie, State Minister for Agricultural Input and Output Marketing Sector of MoA, while the afternoon session was chaired by H.E. Sani Redi, State Minister for Agricultural Development of MoA. Following the presentation the participants were organized in three groups to prepare short and long term plans to implement following the strategies presented in the guiding document. Outputs of the group discussions were presented in a plenary.

Both state ministers thanked the NSAG for preparing the strategy document and for organizing this workshop. The ministers also affirmed their willingness and commitments to institutionalize and implement the strategies in the coming two years and gave direction to the respective experts of the three directorates to finalize and present the proposed plans soon.

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