Category Archives: ISSD news

Promoting cooperative based seed production: The case of ISSD Amhara Unit support to Serten-Endeg SPC

Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has pursued a range of policies and investments to boost agricultural production and productivity. One of them focuses on increasing the availability of improved seed, vital to increase agricultural yield by significant folds. In support to this effort, Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Ethiopia implemented many projects through four implementing partners, four universities (Bahir Dar, Haramaya, Hawassa, and Mekelle), Oromia Seed Enterprise, Ethiopian Seed Producers and Growers’ Association, with technical support from Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). Since 2009, ISSD used many innovative approaches to improve the seed sector, especially to identify, acknowledge and develop diverse sources for seed upon which farmers can rely on. And one of them focus on transforming Local Seed Business, (LSBs), groups of farmers organized as seed producer cooperatives into self-reliant and sustainable local seed businesses.

ISSD’s recent effort working with Serten Endeg Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC), that specializes in hybrid maize and wheat in West Gojjam zone, Burie zuria woreda Zalma kebele, is a good example how ISSD’s approach transformed a weak SPC into a self-sustained and stable cooperative capable of contributing to sustainable seed supply in the country.

At the start of the intervention, Serten Endeg SPC was characterized by lack of members’ trust, divided committee memebers, poor governance and lack of infrastructure. The woreda cooperative office acknowledged that the SPC’s management did not adhere to cooperative principles and guidelines, and members were not confident about their collective entity due to poor management transparency.

ISSD Serten-Endeg Seed Producing Cooperative washing machine picThe project first identified the gaps through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Based on the findings, ISSD Amhara unit conducted discussions with the LSB executive committee, woreda cooperative office and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA). With the assistance of the Woreda office of agriculture and ISSD Amhara unit, an agreement was reached for the LSB to work on seed quality assurance and acquire Certificate of Competence (CoC). The Woreda cooperative office audited the cooperative, assisted in carrying out general assembly meetings and contributed to improving the governance of the SPC. ISSD provided the necessary grant to the SPC for finishing a store and office construction and provided technical support and training in various areas.

As a result of this collaboration the cooperative has shown tremendous achievements and the woreda cooperative office is appreciated the improvement seen within short period of time. The cooperative recent audit found the cooperative to be profitable and members’ trust of the management committee has increased.  The cooperative is aspiring to use its member’s and rented land, to produce more crop seed and add wheat as new seed in the next season. At present, the cooperative is attracting new members. As the result of linkage created by ISSD Amhara Unit Bahir Dar University, the SPC tackled its marketing problem and sold its seeds to Amhara region farmers and Ethiopian Seed Enterprises, seed union and private seed producers.

The cooperative is also looking into an option of working with contractual seed production. Moreover, due to the project support the seed producer cooperative is now a member of Ediget Bandinet Seed Union that is found at Burie.

Recently, as a result of collaborative effort between ISSD and ATA, the cooperative installed a cleaning machine. To resolve challenges related to power supply, ISSD Amhara Unit facilitated the purchase of a generator through provision of grant. The testing of the cleaning machine was conducted in May 2020, where 25 members of the cooperative attended. That was followed by training of 4 people (one expert and 3 farmers) in operating and managing the machine.

ISSD’s Amhara Unit support in organizing the seed producer as a legal entity, obtaining certificate of competency, building basic infrastructure, linkage with market and service providers, and enhancing the seed producers’ capacity were vital in strengthening and creating a self-reliant SPC that can contribute to seed supply towards improving food security in Ethiopia.

Lessons learned from a decade of ISSD in Ethiopia

2019 marked a decade of ISSD in Ethiopia. Ten years have passed since the concept note on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Ethiopia was endorsed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), FAO and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) at Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa.

In the last ten years, ISSD Ethiopia registered many achievements in the areas of

  1. Introducing Local Seed Business (LSB) model to more than 270 Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs) and 50 development organizations across the country and enhancing pluralism in seed production.
  2. Farmers’ use of quality seed increased 28% between 2014 and 2016. The programme improved the availability and use of quality seed for more than 4 million smallholder households, reducing bureaucratic burden, inefficiency and costly rates of carryover seed in some cases by as much as 85%.
  3. ISSD Ethiopia introduced the concept of Direct Seed Marketing (DSM), piloted it, and helped scale its practice in 313 districts across the country.
  4. ISSD Ethiopia pioneered the establishment of independent seed regulatory authorities in Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR to enforce regulation and improve delivery of public services to the sector, including licensing, certification and quality assurance.

A strategy which greatly contributed to these achievements was the establishment of regional seed core groups in the four regional states where ISSD Ethiopia operates. The groups, composed of selected key decision-makers in the regional state arena, including: deputy-/heads of the BoA; directors of research institutes; representatives of public and private seed producers and farmers’ organizations; and coordinators of seed related NGO- and multi-/bilateral projects. Jointly, they formulate interventions to overcome strategic challenges, coordinate developments, facilitate partnerships, channel financial and technical resources, monitor and support interventions and embed successful interventions in working practices. Much of the attention has been directed to addressing the underlying causes of systemic problems.

As ISSD Ethiopia’s presence continued and results materialized, collaboration was increasingly solicited at federal level. After years of investment in piloting innovation and facilitating dialogue, ISSD Ethiopia generated good rapport to pursue sector wide and inclusive strategy involving institutional and regulatory reform.

Today there exists a stakeholder-owned and MoA endorsed seed sector Transformation Agenda, a draft seed policy and amendment proposal to the 2013 seed law. Whilst these results outlined are an achievement in itself, they are yet to lead to positive impact on the performance of the seed sector. What is a necessary and challenging task is still to come, in translating these documents into action and the actual implementation thereof. ISSD Ethiopia has already started raising awareness of the strategies proposed in the Transformation Agenda. It was presented to 24 MoA staff in the presence of the State Ministers, who directed their staff to incorporate the strategies in their new multi-annual plan. With the same outcome in mind, a process started at the regional level. 700 copies of the Transformation Agenda have been distributed for public reference.

Lessons learned

  1. Embrace systemic change: ISSD Ethiopia did well to focus its narrative on systems, addressing systemic changes and root causes of stubborn problems of the seed sector, and raising the ambitions of its partners. Developing the vision of tomorrow was a far better point of departure than dealing with the pressing day-to-day problems, elevating the dialogue to a far more strategic level. But it is good to note, it is challenging to work on systemic changes with professionals from different organizations as they tend to approach issues and solutions primarily from their own field of expertise and interest. We should also keep in mind systemic change is a slow game, considering that much of ISSD Ethiopia’s efforts from as far back as 10 years’ ago are only recently coming to fruition.
  2. The programme employed a sector model, which helped participants in the process to unpack complexity, realize the interdependencies between building blocks of the sector, and create a shared language.
  3. ISSD Ethiopia worked in parallel with key stakeholders at regional state and federal levels, which created familiarity and trust making communication and follow-up effective. Exchange of experiences between regional states created confidence for those lagging behind. ISSD Ethiopia’s collaboration with other partners was pivotal in building its credibility crucial for successes achieved and has earned ISSD Ethiopia government’s trust as a respected adviser.
  4. ISSD Ethiopia has been strategic in adapting to unfolding circumstances of Ethiopia’s dynamic political environment into consideration.
  5. The turnover of staff in public institutions in particular has been an enormous obstacle (but also an opportunity if you consider ISSD Ethiopia’s history with officials that have come to power);
  6. Finally, ISSD could not have been successful in its effort on sector transformation without its dedicated and skillful staff.

New effort to better understand and mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the seed sector: A collaborative effort between ISSD Ethiopia and WCDI

In response to COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on food security, BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia Program’s recent effort focuses on better understanding how the pandemic affects the seed sector and supports the development of urgent coping strategies that would enhance resilience and support continuity of activities of the seed sector. The initiative that was initiated and designed by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) aims at raising awareness on the situation and its impact on the seed sector. It is based on a country quick scan of the impact of COVID-19 and responses to the pandemic on different functions and practical activities in the seed sector.  It is implemented in four countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Myanmar), where ISSD program is already being implemented.

The first quick scan in Ethiopia was conducted in April and report issued during the first week of May. It was conducted through rapid remote survey and crop specific focus group discussions (FGDs), targeting maize and wheat seed systems. A panel of experts, representing government, research, seed companies, service delivery and farmer organizations, was established to answer survey questions on full range of seed value chain functions and seed value chain services and enablers. Closed questionnaire related to the level of impact on practical activities within the current frame in time were used to prioritize issues. A summary of the results generated automatically and further validated by virtual FGDs, focusing on maize and wheat seed systems. The validated alerts and the coping strategies are shared with pertinent stakeholders for take action.

Reiteration will be done at least monthly for the full duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly dashboards on outcomes of the periodical survey will be widely shared among stakeholder thorough meetings (taking the necessary precaution or using video conferencing taking the emerging restriction into consideration) and variety of communication tools mostly digital. [read more on “How does COVID-19 affect the seed sector” introductory brief here)

The outcome of the first of the assessment for the month of May (#01 May 2020 Seed Alert Ethiopia) has been shared with federal and regional stakeholders and decision makers, including the federal Ministry of Agriculture, the regional bureaus of agriculture and the Agricultural Transformation Agency as well as research system. (Click here a Q & A on the briefing). The May quick scan outcome highlighted the following Alerts

  • Alert 1: Precautions hamper seed processing and distribution
  • Alert 2: Short supply of inputs and labour constrain seed production
  • Alert 3: Social distancing diminishes government’s capability to coordinate EGS supply
  • Alert 3: Concern that substandard seed will make its way onto the market is heightened

For more information

 

Production of minitubers in screen house contribute to provision of sustainable disease free potato seed: ISSD Amhara Unit

Organizing farmers into Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) is a key strategy to grow and market much needed quality/farmer preferred seed. Addis Alem SPC, established to produce and market potato seed in Amhara region since 2002 GC is a good example how SPCs can play key role in seed value chain development. The SPC is one of the 4 SPCs directly supported by ISSD Amhara unit, organized with the objective of production, packaging and marketing of improved/farmers preferred seeds in the region.

In Ethiopia, potato is regarded as a high potential crop owing to its ability to provide high yield per unit area with a short crop cycle. It is an important food security and hunger reliever crop by virtue of its ability to mature in advance to most other crops at the time of critical food shortage. However, in spite of the increasing demand, productivity of potato has always been low and declining over the years due to lack of quality disease free seed supply.

Majority of farmers use farm saved, disease susceptible potato seed obtained from local market or exchanged among farmers. In spite of seed regulations in the region, the systems have largely been operating under limited human capacity and facilities without quality control. Poor functioning seed systems, lack of commercial seed production systems, inability of the informal seed system to maintain seed quality and eliminate diseases are consistently ranked among the major constraints in potato production.

Recent years efforts to satisfy the increasing demand by different researches, the regional government, NGOs and other development actors focused on increasing the areas of production rather than increasing productivity through tackling the major productivity constraints – availability of disease free quality potato seed and limited access to suitable varieties. Traditionally, seed potato production systems in the country have the responsibility of research centers and seed producer cooperatives.

In collaboration with regional partners, the work of ISSD to improve the performance of potato value chain started with analysis to better understand the main constraints along the potato seed value chain. Based on the survey result, ISSD in collaboration with Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) supported Addis Alem SPC in production and supply of disease free quality potato mini tuber using screen house.

The production started by the construction of 15 m X 8m X 3m (Length, width and height) screen house and 15mx8mx5m Diffused Light Store (DLS) in the potato potential areas of South Gondar zone, Farta woreda, Awzet kebele. The standard screen house was built using mush wire, cement (for the floor), ground water, compost, sand and forest soil with close follow up, technical support and management. Initially the SPC planted 900 plantlets in 900 pots to produce disease free potato mini-tuber and produced 13000 G0 tubers (on average 14tubers per pot) of Belete variety. During the next round the SPC produced 6000 G1 mini tuber, which was planted on half hectares to produce 200qt G2 of quality disease free seed potato.

Despite the first doubt of the farmers and to their pleasant surprise, it was possible to get 14 tubers from a single plantlet. This has increased the demand or potato seed considerably within a short time.

Misgan Mulaw, “I was able to get enough G1 disease free tubers to produce and sell 64qt of disease free seed potato to the SPC. I earned 60,500.00 Ethiopian Birr.” Similarly Ato Misganaw Haile and Awoke Fantaw produced and supplied 37 and 36qt and earned 29,600.00 and 28,800.00Birr respectively.

Ato Marew Awoke effort is a good example on the level of acceptance of the technique by the surrounding farmers. “I built my own screen house using the technique provided. And with the supply of plantlets from ARARI I was able to produce 1160 G0 tubers, and from that 6.5qt G1 disease free seed potato tuber.”

The main factors that are contributing to ensuring the SPC’s capability to become a sustainable source of quality potato source seed to the area include the cooperative’s infrastructure (screen house, ground water, DLS), experiences how to manage the screen house and its good linkage with plantlets source. Their success is currently being scaled up by Mush SPC in North Shewa zone, Basona Worana Woreda with the support of ISSD Amhara unit. Furthermore, Following a visit to Addis Alem SPC, Bahir Dar University and Debretabor universities allocated budget for construction of the infrastructure (screen house, hand dag well, DLS).  Guna union is being supported by Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) to build the necessary infrastructure to increase production and productivity of disease free potato mini tubers. ISSD Amhara unit supported by linking Guna union with various partners including plantlet supplier, the Woreda office of agriculture, quality regulatory authority and Adet agricultural research institute. The programme also  provided technical support at different levels. In addition, GO and NGOs potato platform was established at regional level to provide coordinated support for potato producers in the value chain development.

April 2020 – By Wonzie Asmare Knowledge Sharing & communication Expert, ISSD Amhara Unit

Contractual agreement boosts early generation seed supply in Amhara region: Lessons Learned from BENEFIT-ISSD Amhara Unit

One of the biggest challenges in raising the performance of the seed sector in Ethiopia is the current short supply of quality Early Generation Seed (EGS) of preferred varieties. EGS includes three different classes of seed, namely breeder, pre-basic and basic, that are used as the starting material from which certified seed is produced. Hence, by a different nomenclature, EGS is referred to as foundation seed.

Up until very recently, research centres were responsible to produce all four classes of seed, including certified seed in selected cases, with minimal interest from commercial enterprises. Both public and private certified seed producers, with the exception of Corteva Agriscience (which recently acquired Pioneer Hi-Bred), have historically limited their focus to certified seed only. Confounding the problem was the fact that researchers were expected to develop and release new varieties; maintain already released varieties; and research, develop and popularize other technologies that lead to crop improvement.

Due to this division of labour, weak integration, lack of coordination, unclear responsibility, minimal information on EGS quantity and variety demand, and coordinated planning, supply of EGS has been inadequate. Often, a mismatch between the supply of EGS by researchers and the demands of farmers was observed, and either too much or too little EGS of a given variety was supplied at great cost or missed opportunity. At times, request for basic seed would take up to two years to get sufficient quantities and seed producers struggle in responding to the needs of farmers.

Since 2017, BENEFIT ISSD Amhara Unit has been facilitating dialogues among different parties, to improve the linkage and coordination between researchers, early generation seed producers and farmers for sufficient and efficient supply of quality EGS. The effort resulted in an agreement to extend the responsibilities of certified seed producers to incorporate basic seed production, and focus the orientation of researchers on breeder and pre-basic seed multiplication exclusively.

The signing of a contractual agreement between certified seed producers and buyers (regulatory authority, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), public seed enterprises, private seed producers, research institutions, unions); singed in the presence of Amhara Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) resulted in

  1. A seed unit with dedicated team of researchers, established within the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) responsible for forecasting EGS demand and translating it into production plans for centres under its management.
  2. Forecasts started to be conducted by expert groups uniting researchers, early generation seed producers including Amhara Seed Enterprise (ASE) and selected private seed producers and seed unions.
  3. Specific agreements were reached on who produces what for whom, by in large shifting the orientation of researchers towards breeder and pre-basic seed exclusively and certified seed producers towards basic seed production. Bilaterally, contracts were signed between both parties defining the specific terms of EGS procurement, including quantity, date of delivery and payment.

Lessons learned

  1. ISSD Ethiopia Amhara Unit effort in facilitating the discussions on contractual agreements led to (re) organized forecasting, joint planning and procurement, and inclusion of relevant actors to improve reliability of forecasts and generate consensus and trust.
  2. Contractual agreements monitored and mediated by BoA gave clarity, created a legal ground that can be enforced by both parties. In all cases, the BoA serves as a witness to and mediator of contractual agreements between seed producers and buyer. Overall, the system reduced the burden of BoA in managing EGS supply in the region.
  3. The seed unit within ARARI created capacity for managing the process, while the involvement of both the regional seed core group and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) enhance accountability.
  4. To ensure success, it is relevant to give special attention to enforcing contracts, as deviations from and defaults on agreements were common. And it should be noted that actors are usually reluctant to commit to contractual agreements without external facilitation and pressure.
  5. There is still the issue of land shortage that is limiting EGS production and need attention.

 

 

Amhara region seed sector transformation guiding document

The ISSD Amhara Unit, in consultation with relevant seed sector stakeholders recently published a handbook on the region’s seed sector transformation challenges and possible way forward. The document gives insights on the Amhara region seed sector strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and provides guidance on how to unlock major challenges that are hindering progress.  In addition, the document looks at other countries’ seed sector policy experiences, successful implementation strategies, responsibility of relevant stakeholders etc. The document was evaluated and validated  at different workshops and believed to highly contribute to the transformation of the region’s seed sector.

Here is the guiding document in Amharic 

 

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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

 

 

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