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[NAIROBI] Fostering food and nutrition security is key to sustainable development. But access to high quality seeds from research and development by smallholder farmers is still a major challenge to agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In fact, the second goal in the UN’s Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
But how much is Africa investing to improve food security? Is Africa committed to taking leadership in building resilient seed sector for improved food security? Th

Africa requires a continental effort in development of sustainable seed sector through leadership.

Gilbert Nakweya

ese were some of the issues I pondered over during the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Africa Synthesis Conference in Kenya this week (19-20 September). The conference drew agricultural experts from all over the world to discuss the findings of ISSD Africa’s two year pilot project that ends this year.
According to a 2013 report published by the World Bank, Africa is increasingly dependent on food imports from the rest of the world to satisfy its consumption needs. It finds that more than 80 per cent of production gains have come from the expansion of cropped areas rather than from greater productivity of areas already cultivated.
As I engaged some of the experts at the ISSD conference, it came out clearly that Africa’s smallholder farmers face challenges in accessing quality seeds, thus making them food insecure.
But the experts from academic institutions, governments and the private sector say that a vibrant seed sector will help Africa improve food and nutrition security. They note that a focus on entrepreneurship and market-orientation will capture smallholder farmers as important users and drivers of the seed value chain.
They also persuade me to believe that building market-oriented and dynamic seed sector that promotes access to high quality seeds could also transform the continent and improve livelihoods.
What impressed me about the project is that it has helped increase awareness across the continent on the critical role of the seed sector in agricultural development. This is very important because without awareness among stakeholders, the calls and research for the development in the seed sector will be in vain. However, Africa needs to act now and improve this sector for great value, especially to rural smallholder farmers. Even as we share the best practices, lessons and innovations, globally and in Africa, there is need for action to implement what has been innovated.
To fully address the challenges of seed sector development, Africa requires a continental effort in development of sustainable seed sector through leadership, especially from agricultural experts and policy makers. This will help overcome the challenges that are a huge barrier to food security and agricultural development goals.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.


John C. Keyser Opening up the markets for seed trade in Africa (World Bank, October 2013)