Uganda seed sector alerts

Uganda seed sector assessment

Seed Alerts identify current challenges and urgent action in the Uganda seed sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders.

Below, please find the most recent seed alert for Uganda with key actions defined. You can also download the complete assessment.

Methodology

Rapid assessments are conducted at the country level in May and June 2020 through survey and focus group discussions (FGDs). In its approach the rapid assessments are inspired by the sector model developed by AidEnvironment. Read more about the methodology on our page 'Rapid assessments: methodology'.

Seed sector assessment - June 2020

Alert 1: Mobility restrictions and lockdown hamper the evaluation and release of new varieties

The impact

  • Government mobility restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 hampered the establishment of variety trials in farmers’ fields in the past weeks; as a result, currently only a limited number of trials are in place
  • Even though travel restrictions are gradually being relaxed, it is still difficult for researchers to get approval from the COVID-19 District Task Forces to visit their on-farm trials in the different parts of the country
  • In addition, the current measures do not permit the holding of large gatherings or farmers’ field days for variety evaluation
  • The Variety Release Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has not yet adopted a process to support the establishment of an online variety release system, as suggested in Seed Alert#1
  • All these issues will seriously affect the number of new varieties that will be released in 2020

Actions required

  • Generate a list of do’s and don’ts for researchers and others field workers visiting communities to ensure community members remain safe from COVID-19 in the continuation of activities
  • Get approval for researchers from the Residential District Commissioner (RDC) to visit their community-based variety trials, potentially accompanied by a District Agricultural Officer (DAO) or any other authorized district staff member
  • Conduct field days with only a limited number of farmers and record short documentaries, as an alternative way of soliciting farmers’ views on the varieties being assessed in the trial
  • Alert the Variety Release Committee to take advantage of an ease in restrictions on movement and re-schedule the cancelled variety release meeting that was due to take place in April 2020
  • Proactively follow up on the recommendations from Seed Alert#1 related to the digitalization of the variety release process

Alert 2: Mobility restrictions disrupt the production and supply of quality basic seed

The impact

  • COVID-19 mobility restrictions hampered pre-basic seed distribution early in the cropping season, which consequently impacted on the size of the area currently being cultivated for the production of basic seed, especially for maize, beans and groundnut
  • The travel ban continues to be upheld in all the border districts, making it impossible for breeders to monitor the basic seed fields at the critical growth stages, thus casting doubts on their quality
  • At the same time, community-based seed producers and local seed businesses (LSBs) involved in basic seed production are hesitant to use public transport due to the fear of being exposed to COVID-19, consequently affecting the availability of basic seed for the second season of 2020
  • There is growing anxiety about the scarcity of quality basic seed for seed growers in the second season of 2020, and subsequent seasons, which may result in seed producers using substandard basic seed, thereby compromising the quality of the next generation of commercial seed in the market

Required actions

  • Conduct a quick inventory of the current quantities, crops and varieties of basic seed currently being produced throughout the country, as well as the basic seed demands of producers of certified seed and quality declared seed (QDS)
  • Develop an authorized structure for ordering basic seed for the next cropping season, anticipating scarcity, as well as trying to prevent the sale of fake basic seed
  • Communicate with seed companies and seed producers on the quantities of basic seed available for the next cropping season, to create transparency on potential shortages, and protect them from the risk of purchasing substandard basic seed
  • Develop clear messages (video, text and spoken format) on ways to protect from COVID-19 infection, for sharing through traditional and social media, and expose misinformation to alleviate the fear of traveling among seed producers

Alert 3: Mobility restrictions and increased prices hinder access to agro-inputs for the local production of quality seed

The impact

  • During this COVID-19 crisis, seed producers have been affected in other incomegenerating activities, such as operating boda bodas, selling crops at local markets, and selling beverages; as a consequence, they currently lack cash for investing in the purchase of agro-inputs that are required for quality seed production
  • Low demand and poor sales further increase the price of these inputs, which had already inflated owing to higher transport cost
  • The complete lockdown at border districts resulting from the rise in number of cases of COVID-19, further hinders access to inputs for seed production in these areas, especially for those living far away from agro-input shops

Required actions

  • Make local seed producers aware of agro-input credit schemes to access the required agricultural inputs
  • Lobby the government to make affordable credit facilities available for agro-input dealers through the newly established COVID-19 fund to allow them to keep inputs at affordable prices for local seed producer
  • Intensify inspection of agro-dealers by the MAAIF and DAOs to ensure that the agricultural inputs accessed by seed producers, as well as farmers, are of high quality
  • Broker relationships between local seed producers and agro-dealers for advancing agro-inputs, guaranteeing the agro-dealer will be paid back after seed sales

Alert 4: Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures hamper the promotion of seed and varieties, and impede the distribution of seed at points of sale

The impact

  • Media programmes focus necessarily on the health-related issues of the COVID-19 crisis, paying less attention to the promotion of new varieties and quality seed; this impacts on farmers’ awareness of varieties and quality seed
  • Variety demonstrations are currently at the right stage for promotion; however, it is difficult to obtain approval from the COVID-19 District Task Forces for activities that involve the congregation of more than ten people, including the organization of farmers’ field days
  • Transport continues to be limited, and its costs have doubled; as a result, distribution of inputs has become slow and expensive for those who do not have their own means of transport
  • Increased transaction costs due to COVID-19 are compensated through an increase in seed prices, thus affecting farmers’ access to quality seed

Required actions

  • Embrace alternative variety and quality seed promotion activities that involve fewer numbers of farmers, to allow social distancing and ensure the use of standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Organize promotion activities, such as the events currently implemented by some NARIs, involving breeders and only few farmers; cover the events through media, and air them at a later stage to a wider audience via radio or TV
  • Train and involve agro-dealers in information sharing on new varieties and the advantages of using quality seed, as they are the stakeholders interacting with farmers at the points of seed sales
  • Encourage the use of media to promote varieties and quality seed, using video content, spoken messages and printed media, through TV, radio, social media and printed materials such as promotional leaflets, brochures, flyers etc., including translated materials
  • Lobby for COVID-19 District Task Forces to integrate key messages on quality seed and variety promotion, especially for nutrient-dense crops that can boost immunity during the pandemic
  • Encourage farmers’ organizations to consolidate seed demand for bulk purchase with support from the district extension system as this will facilitate the reliable distribution of seed at the point of sale

Seed sector assessment - May 2020

Alert 1: Mobility restrictions hamper processes of variety development and release

The impact

  • COVID-19 measures reduce the mobility of researchers and others involved in variety development, selection and release, and this will affect the number of new varieties released in 2020
  • Breeding materials prepared at CGIAR Centers and other sources outside Uganda have not reached the country due to transport restrictions; for example, only 25% of planned maize trials could actually be established, thus limiting the improved germplasm from which to select more productive varieties
  • Breeders face challenges in reaching breeding nurseries and on-station trials, as well as collecting data on established participatory variety selection (PVS) on-farm trials
  • The April meeting of the variety release committee has been cancelled
  • Although the current crisis is not the moment to ask farmers to try new varieties, a continuous flow of new varieties into the sector is needed to improve crop productivity

Actions required

  • Develop standard operation procedures (SOPs) for field operations to guide researchers, technicians, and labourers, including the provision of sanitizers and face masks
  • Ensure that farmers who are hosting PVS trials are aware of government measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and work according to them
  • Collaborate with courier services, in-country and internationally, to move breeding materials where they are required
  • Support early preparations for missed seasonal breeding trials, so that experiments can be established in the 2020B season
  • Engage National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) management to allow breeders to travel for more than one day to collect critical data from their offstation trials
  • Engage the Ministry of Works and Transport to allocate car stickers for breeders at NARO institutes
  • With hotels being closed, gazette a few rooms in former government hotels to host traveling researchers and other essential experts
  • Use Information Technology (IT) applications to have farmers supporting breeders in data collection on on-farm trials for issues like disease and pest infestation
  • Make the necessary preparations for an online meeting of the variety release committee; this may be a starting point to change the offline variety release system into an online one

Alert 2: Mobility restrictions hamper the production of quality basic seed

The impact

  • Most, though not all, basic seed producers have been supplied with the necessary pre-basic (breeder) seed just before the COVID-19 lockdown
  • However, the current COVID-19 measures pose challenges to the transport and distribution of the agricultural inputs needed for quality basic seed production
  • Restrictions on public transport and rules on social distancing (keeping 4 meters distance) are resulting in a labour shortage
  • Mobility restrictions also hamper MAAIF inspectors in assuring the quality of the basic seed currently in the field
  • It is expected that basic seed quantities in the next season 2020 will not be sufficient
  • This may result in seed producers using other seed classes to produce commercial seed, resulting in increased amounts of substandard seed on the market

Actions required

  • With agricultural inputs designated as essential services, the District Local Governments (DLGs) should take affirmative action to ensure basic seed producers have access to the necessary agricultural inputs
  • Seek opportunities to replace human labour with other options, such as replacing manual weeding with herbicides, and look into options for mechanisation that are currently not being used
  • Create awareness among seed business entrepreneurs on the SOPs in the prevention of COVID-19 spread, and warmly welcome those providing inspection services
  • Put a high priority on the inspection of early generation seed (EGS) involving the authorized District Agricultural Officers (DAOs) and MAAIF field inspectors
  • Speed up the development of the digital seed tracing and tracking system (STTS), providing insight into the demand and supply of EGS

Alert 3: Mobility restrictions hamper access to inputs, labour, and services for quality seed

The impact

  • The government measures on COVID-19 impact the transport and distribution of the agricultural inputs needed for quality seed production, especially to outlets outside urban areas
  • Seed companies and LSBs with larger seed crop acreages face shortages in labour for weeding and for fertilizer and pesticide application
  • The new rule of keeping 4 meters social distance further hampers effective labour for seed production
  • Field inspections are delayed due to difficulties in submitting planting returns that are required for planning inspection by MAAIF/NSCS
  • This is expected to result in a shortage of quality seed in the next season, 2020

Actions required

  • Engage the District COVID-19 Taskforces and security forces to allow the transportation and distribution of agri-inputs to the last mile as an essential service
  • Encourage agro-dealers to work with farmer seed entrepreneurs to provide inputs on credit to ease their cash flow challenges
  • Create awareness and ensure adherence of seed production workers to COVID-19 safety guidelines
  • Encourage government and seed company technical staff to provide virtual seed extension services to seed producers through phone calls
  • Advise seed producers on the use of labour saving technologies, like integrated weed management options (herbicides)
  • Engage district agricultural officers and inspectors to take proactive measures reaching out to seed producers to collect planting returns and schedule inspections
  • Encourage field inspectors to prioritize inspection services, even if payment for the service is delayed
  • Engage the District COVID-19 Taskforces through MAAIF to allow their Production Department vehicles be used for field inspection
  • Request MAAIF to provide the required logistics to seed inspectors to do their routine audit inspections in the regions

Alert 4: Mobility measures restrict farmers’ access to inputs and quality seed

The impact

  • Government measures on COVID-19 have hampered the transportation and distribution of agri-inputs to both urban and rural agri-input shops, leading to limited availability to farmers
  • Travel restrictions severely limit farmers in their access to agri-inputs and seeds
  • Restrictions on public gatherings, including rural markets, with the exception of food markets, hampers promotional events (like seed fairs) for quality seed and other inputs
  • Public transport restrictions increase the costs of agri-input deliveries, making them less affordable to farmers
  • Reduced access to agri-inputs and quality seed directly affects crop productivity, which may result in food and nutritional insecurity

Actions required

  • Engage with the District COVID-19 Taskforces to facilitate easy movement of essential agri-inputs to areas where movement authorization is not yet permitted by the authorities, but in accordance with COVID-19 SOPs
  • Develop an effective coordination mechanism to facilitate availability and access to agri-inputs throughout the country
  • Promote seed companies utilizing their cargo trucks to stock upcountry dealers with enough inputs to avoid shortages
  • Encourage seed companies and agro-dealers close to farmers to embrace the delivery of inputs to farmers, with farmers ordering via phone and paying using mobile money
  • Encourage farmers to make input purchases through local extension agents and farmers’ associations, which are free to move using motorbikes
  • Continue monitoring agro-dealers selling inputs to ensure quality inputs to the market and to minimize substandard inputs that may lead to losses on the farmers’ side