ISSD Africa: Enhancing reliable access to quality seed

This Africa-wide programme has supported the development of a vibrant, market oriented and pluralistic seed sector in Africa. Access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across Africa. This affects their agricultural productivity, income and resilience. Addressing this challenge is a complex task and cannot be done at national levels alone.

Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) aims to enhance reliable access of smallholder farmers to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at an affordable price. The programme has been conducted in phases.

Piloting phase ISSD Africa

The Piloting Phase of ISSD Africa ran from September 2014 to May 2017.

ISSD Africa is a Community of Practice (CoP) that unites African seed experts, seed programmes and associated organizations, all working on increasing farmers' access to quality seed. Using the ISSD approach the project implemented action-learning projects on four major 'chronic challenges' in the seed sector in Africa:

  • how to promote seed entrepreneurship;
  • how to increase access to varieties in the public domain;
  • how to match global commitments with national realities;
  • how to support seed sector development under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

We worked with four thematic working groups, consisting of recognized African experts in the respective theme. With a wide range of additional international and African partners with valuable experience in the four identified themes we worked on the action learning projects in 14 African countries.

The project had three main objectives:

  1. Support continental and national partners in understanding and applying ISSD guiding principles in their seed sector development strategies and programmes;
  2. Identify ways to effectively address complex challenges faced by continental and national stakeholders in the African seed sector that can be incorporated into a Comprehensive Programme;
  3. Creating an enabling structure and favourable environment for experimenting, documenting, sharing and learning, enhancing collaboration and promoting synergy.

The piloting phase is designed based upon the experiences, research results and an intensive consultative process in earlier phases of ISSD Africa. Read more about this on the right side of the page.

Priority themes for seed sector development in Africa

Four priority themes have been identified:

  1. Promoting entrepreneurship in the seed value chain
  2. Access to varieties in the public domain
  3. Matching global commitments with national realities
  4. Supporting African Union programmes and seed sector development

Addressing these themes has been done through action research, innovation trajectories, policy dialogues, capacity strengthening, and joint learning in eight to ten pilot countries.

ISSD Africa has developed separate synthesis papers on the different topics addressed under the themes. (see the paragraph Systhesis papers) We also developed posters for each topic, providing background information, key outputs, key events, main findings and lessons learnt, and next steps and future focus areas. Find all documents and posters at the website pages for specific themes.

Key lessons learnt

The key takeaways or lessons learned from this project are the following:

  • ISSD Africa has proven its value in serving a niche as an open platform for seed sector professionals to identify, document, jointly innovate and exchange on effective ways to improve seed sector performance to realise breakthroughs in farmer access to the quality seed they desire.
  • The programme showed that innovative solutions to some of the 'chronic' seed sector challenges exist; providing a structure for joint action learning activities and facilitating cross-country exchange of experiences between projects and programmes will contribute to the development of the seed sector at national level.

Setting up Africa-wide network of experts 

The piloting phase of the programme has established an Africa-wide learning and innovation network of experts, seed programs and related organizations, and  created a favorable environment for experimenting, documenting, sharing and learning, enhancing collaboration and promoting synergy in seed sector development.

Guiding principles 

The design of ISSD Africa is inspired by the ISSD Guiding Principles on seed programs and policies.

  • Foster pluralism and build programs upon a diversity of seed systems
  • Work according to the structure of the seed value chain
  • Promote entrepreneurship and market orientation
  • Recognize the relevance of informal seed systems
  • Facilitate interactions between informal and formal seed systems
  • Recognize complementary roles of the public and private sector
  • Support enabling and evolving policies for a dynamic sector
  • Promote evidence based seed sector innovation

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