Nigeria-Netherlands Collaborative Seed Programme

In April of 2021, the Collaborative Seed Programme - a collaboration between Dutch and Nigerian seed sector partners – has been launched. Marja Thijssen, senior advisor seed systems at Wageningen University & Research, and Chinedu Agbara, programme manager on the Nigerian side, provide insight in the objectives.

The Collaborative Seed Programme (CSP) brings together Dutch and Nigerian seed sector stakeholders with the aim to enhance the performance of the Nigerian seed sector. The CSP is one of the programmes under the umbrella of the Nigeria-Netherlands Seed Partnership. This partnership is part of the overall partnership platform SeedNL. 

Marja Thijssen, senior seed sector advisor at Wageningen University & Research, has been at the forefront of many of the current integrated seed sector programmes in Africa. Thijssen: ‘Many smallholder farmers in African countries face low crop yields due to the use of poor quality seed or even ‘fake seed’. We have been working with local farmers, research institutes, companies, NGOs and governments to transform seed sectors. For Nigeria, a national seed roadmap was drafted to prioritize challenges and start up innovation pathways which give the national seed sector a boost. We’re very happy to be collaborating on this programme with Dutch and Nigerian partners that are ready to make a change.’ 

The activities within the CSP complement other Dutch funded private sector development, knowledge and research activities, like the impact cluster Seeds 4 Change (S4C), and the associated Knowledge 2 Knowledge project (K2K) in Kano State, and the SDGP project of East-West Seeds (EWS). 

Nigeria’s seed sector

Chinedu Agbara from Sahel consulting, works as a programme manager for the CSP. Agbara:

‘We’re very enthusiastic about the Dutch-Nigerian partnership and the Collaborative Seed Programme - as it really brings systems thinking into our work. Wageningen University & Research is an interesting partner for us, given their extensive experience in seed sector projects in emerging economies, and vast experience with what has and hasn’t worked in other parts of Africa.’ Agbara coordinates efforts on the Nigerian side, where many different parties – ranging from  governments, government institutions, private sector organisations and knowledge institutes, are involved.

Agbara: ‘Over the last few months we’ve worked hard on establishing solid teams for each of the eight topics (projects) that we work on. We have developed structures, worked on mapping the baseline situation and drafting strategies for change.’ The programme did this together with its Nigerian key partners, the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN), National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Key partners in the Netherlands are Plantum and Naktuinbouw.

‘Through close collaboration we’ve built up trust which is crucial to realising next steps in the programme. It has greatly helped to work with WUR on that; many partners know Marja Thijssen as a figurehead on systemic seed sector change and trust her as she guides these processes,’ says Agbara. 

Thematic areas of Nigerian seed program

Central to this programme is the aim to contribute to improved sustainable food, income and nutrition security of rural households in Nigeria, by improving farmers’ access to and use of quality seed of improved varieties.

From the Nigerian Seed Road Map (NSRM) a list of central topics have been selected to work upon over the next few years:

  1. decentralization of seed quality assurance;
  2. extension on seed and cultivation practices;
  3. seed company marketing and promotion;
  4. institutional markets;
  5. sector governance and coordination;
  6. alignment of donor interventions;
  7. plant variety protection;
  8. variety release.

Thijssen: ‘In the context of seed sector transformation they contribute to better seed sector services, enhanced seed markets, and improved sector coordination and regulation.’  

Through its approach addressing challenges through strategic innovation pathways of the NSRM, the Collaborative Seed Programme takes a systemic approach for sustainably addressing key challenges in the seed sector.  

It puts the Netherlands in a strong position strengthening the seed sector in Nigeria, contributing to Nigeria’s capacity in fostering the development of the agricultural sector, enhancing food and nutrition security, while also addressing major challenges in the climate crisis.