Harmonized Seed Security Project (HaSSP): Newsletter 01

One of the major challenges faced by the SADC region is the need to improve agricultural productivity, and to facilitate regional and international trade in agricultural products. A major constraint to agricultural productivity and food security in SADC is inadequate supply of consistently high quality seed of both cash and food crops due to climatic, economic and human factors. In years of seed shortages member states import seed from sources within and outside the region. However, member states importing seed within the region face difficulties because regulations and procedures on seed and phytosanitary measures are diverse and fragmented, hampering the movement of seed and vegetative planting material from member states with surplus to those experiencing deficits. This is partly due to the lack of cohesion between the seed laws of different countries, which are tailored to meet the unique political, economic and cultural requirements of each individual country. This has not been in the interests of seed industry development, seed security, nor overall food security. This has continued in spite of the approval of and signature by Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security of the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the SADC Harmonised Seed Regulatory System. 

Domestication and implementation of the SADC Harmonised Seed Regulatory System in the different SADC Member countries will effect harmonization in the region. Harmonization of the policy and regulatory environment relating to seeds and phytosanitary measures across countries will integrate smaller and isolated national seed markets into one larger SADC market for seed. This will encourage entry in the region of new improved varieties and ease the movement of quality seed from countries with surplus to countries experiencing deficit. This is one way of contributing to improved efficiency through the reduction of transaction costs relating to seed trade and encouraging economies of scale in seed production. 

Rationale for project interventions 

The purpose of the project is to provide enabling support to four SADC member states to domesticate the regional seed protocol, harmonise their seed policies and legislation, and effectively implement the provisions of the protocol with enhanced national capacities. HaSSP is a pilot project that is designed to gain entry into four countries - Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Reviewing national policy and legislation on seed - There is still inadequate collaboration and harmony at the regional level regarding development, movement and use of improved seed. Seed certification and variety release requirements differ from country to country and together with excessive phytosanitary regulations, function as nontariff barriers hampering regional seed trade. Harmonization is the process of bringing together regionally different approaches (policies, laws, regulations and procedures) into a unified strategy with the ultimate aim of increasing the flow of seed across national borders. Activities under the HaSSP will facilitate alignment of national seed legislation to the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System protocols on seed variety release and registration; seed certification and quality control; as well as quarantine and phytosanitary measures for seed. This will be achieved through establishment of policy dialogue platforms, consultancy studies, policy research and legislative processes that will be undertaken in the project countries. 

Policy research and advocacy - The rationalization to harmonize seed systems in SADC is based on scientific evidence and justification. During domestication and implementation of the SADC harmonized seed regulatory system, policy research will be implemented through studies that will be undertaken in the project. Results of the studies will help inform decision making processes in the implementing countries and will be channeled to the SADC Seed Centre in periodic reports. There will also be need to create awareness and understanding of the project to all stakeholders in the seed value chain. Regional and national dialogue platforms will be provided annually through regional and national workshops. Bringing seed practitioners together will provide opportunities for sharing of knowledge, best practices and ideas. 

Project target groups and beneficiaries 

In principle, the project will target all the stakeholders in the seed value chain. These include government departments of agriculture; the national agricultural research and extension services; civil society organizations; the farmer unions; the international seed research organizations; and individual organizations that are involved in seed marketing; as well as the farmers themselves. For specific activities however, the project will focus on specific institutions or geographical areas and will therefore have specific direct beneficiaries. For example the community seed projects will be established in those areas selected by stakeholders from each country during the planning meetings while activities aimed at strengthening seed certification institutions will focus on seed certification units and National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs). 

The ultimate beneficiaries of the project are the small-scale, resource poor farmers who need access to a wide range of good quality seed at the right time and at affordable prices. Implementing and nonimplementing SADC Member States, institutional partners, NGOs, commercial seed companies and seed producing farmers will benefit from the project, as they will have access to information, which will assist them in taking important decisions. At the National level the National Seed Authorities (NSAs) will benefit from strengthening of seed certification facilities and training of seed inspectors and seed analysts. NPPOs will benefit from training of Plant Health Inspectors. NSAs and NPPOs will also enhance their capacity to implement the system and contribute more effectively to provision of quality seed to farmers.