Seed index introduced to African agricultural sector

It was revealed during the workshop on critical analysis of the biennial review process held recently in Yaoundé, Cameroon that the system will improve access to quality seed.

Addressing stakeholders at the workshop, Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development at the African Union Commission, said seed sector development was at the fore. agenda of the African Head of State since 2005,

“The system will improve access to quality seeds by improving agricultural production and productivity. The introduction of the seed index in the CAADP will allow us to report on the progress made in the development of the seed sector in Africa to the Assembly of the African Union,” he said.

During the discussions, Bahigwa urged stakeholders to expedite the implementation of the various instruments approved by the AU Policy Organs to advance the development of the seed sector.

He underscored the need for timely submission of all reports and action plans of the various Technical Working Groups (TWGs) to facilitate monitoring of the implementation of the African Seed and Agriculture Program 10-year action plan. biotechnology.

Africa suffers from severe food insecurity and is a net food importer. According to the United Nations, the continent will have the highest number of hungry people in the world at 433 million by 2030.

The continent spent $35 billion importing food in 2020 and this amount is expected to rise to $100 billion by 2030 as the gap between demand and local production widens.

The sector accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product and employs over 60% of the continent’s workforce, mostly in the poorest countries. Almost three quarters of the population of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are small subsistence farmers, but they account for more than 75% of agricultural production.

According to The Seed Sector in Africa: Status Report and Ten-year Action Plan (2020-2030), a report released by the African Union Commission (AUC) in 2021 to guide agricultural policy on the continent:

“At the farm level, yields need to increase if there are to be surpluses available for trade. Current yields of staple cereal crops in Africa are low and nearly stagnant at about 1 ton/ha for maize, compared to 4 tons/ha in other developing regions. He assures.

According to media reports on the agricultural policies of 40 African countries, access to improved, high-yielding seed varieties and private sector involvement have been clearly defined as the agrarian recovery strategy.

Quality seed is a prerequisite for success in agriculture and is a major pathway for the success of regional food security goals, with the potential to increase overall productivity by up to 40%.

Seed companies are well placed to develop and provide access to quality seed in Africa,” the report adds.

Although still nascent, the commercial seed market captures significant shares of major crops such as maize, which accounts for 42% of Africa’s commercial seed market.

These two seed systems are governed by different sets of global treaties and agreements.

For peasant seed systems, farmers’ rights have been articulated in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas; and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On February 16, the African Union Policy Organs adopted the Continental Guidelines for the “Harmonization of Seed and Regulatory Frameworks and Continental Guidelines for the Use of Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture in Africa” from non-transparent manner. This endorsement was leaked to the media much later.

Civil society groups have opposed these guidelines for years. The guidelines are part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), a free trade agreement set up in 2018 after 54 out of 55 countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Furthermore, the draft biotechnology guidelines document has promoted modern biotechnology through biased and distorted narratives, even problematizing the precautionary approach as a barrier to wider dissemination of genetically modified products on the continent.

Earlier, on September 23, 2021, African nonprofits and activist groups working on seed sovereignty and peasants’ rights opposed the African Union’s presentation of the “common position” at the Summit of United Nations Food Systems (UNFSS).

Lana T. Arthur