Ethiopia: Government intervenes to bolster seed distribution
−− Newly established unit is tasked with conducting research about the challenges of the seed system
Dec. 8, 2017
The Unit, which has four members from the MoNAR and ATA, is responsible for the research to identify problems plaguing the entire seed production and distribution system.
The seed system refers to the activities of developing, producing and distributing seeds to smallholder farmers. Along with water and fertilisers, seeds are the fundamental ingredient for better agricultural productivity.
After identifying the gaps in the system, the Unit will forward possible ideas and recommendations to MoNAR for further actions and adjustments.
“The Unit was mainly established to minimise the demand and supply gap of improved seeds coupled with its distribution constraints,” said Seifu Assefa, director of Agriculture Input Marketing at the Ministry. “There was no formal body to coordinate and organise the seed production and distribution system, and the new unit will put such an institution in place.”
Even though the figures released by different research institutions and government bodies are diverse, they unanimously demonstrate that the level of improved seed usage in the country is low. The official data of the Ministry shows that only six percent of the country’s farmers have access to improved seeds.
“Our main target is ensuring the availability of improved seeds at the right time with better quality and quantity,” said Seifu.
This move of establishing the Unit shows the attention given by the government for the system, according to Assefa Admassie (PhD), an agricultural economist with three decades of experience.
“The system has been neglected for years and was not getting sufficient attention,” he said.
The Unit was established after the newly developed strategy dubbed Seed System Development Strategy released by the MoANR through ATA’s facilitation. It reviews the entire value chain system of the seeds starting from germination until they reach the farmers’ hands.
The Strategy addressed systemic bottlenecks with the objective of bringing holistic transformation, beyond carrying out the piecemeal practices within the seed system, according to the strategy document. It also aims at strengthening the regulatory capacity and the structural as well as legal frameworks to resolve seed system bottlenecks.
The Strategy identified over 30 systemic bottlenecks in the areas of seed production, marketing and distribution. The significant ones include lack of seed producers’ internal quality control; the absence of sufficient and sustainable markets for community-based seed production; and farmers’ limitations in producing adequate seeds of preferred varieties.
Assefa adds his perspective.
“Insufficient production of improved seeds and improper supply chains are also challenges of the system,” he said.
The average annual national supply of improved seed varieties for most food crops covers less than 10pc of the total agricultural land area compared to 25pc in many other African nations.
The other gap identified by the Strategy was lack of promotion in lobbying the farmers using the seeds, and the Unit is expected to fill this gap, according to Seifu.
“We will officially launch the Strategy in a month’s time,” said Seifu.
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