The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) organised a learning visit to Lusaka under the Common Market for Eastern and southern Africa (COMESA) Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan from 27th to 28th April 2017.
The visit was designed to familiarise farmers with COMESA harmonisation procedures and status in Zambia. Participating in the visit were farmers from Malawi, South Africa, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Seychelles, Congo and Rwanda, representing both SACAU and the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation.
Most of these farmers were seed growers for various seed companies in their respective countries. Among other things, farmers were briefed on the processes of seed policy harmonisation at national and regional level. Issues of variety release, registration and post control testing as some key points in seed harmonisation were also deliberated. The team also visited SeedCo to observe first-hand the practices of private sector on seed production. A tour was made in their labs, factory and a maize production field.
“We noted that for a variety to be used by farmers in a country, it should undergo the following processes: variety release, registration for production, seed field inspections, sampling & testing, certification, licensing of seed traders, and post control testing to assess how close seed is to the original/authentic sample,” said Mr Innocent Jumbe, one of the participants from the SACAU Young Farmers’ Forum. “We toured the seed laboratory illustrating how the key parameters in seed production are tested,” added Jumbe.
Farmers visited demonstration plots of Monsanto, SeedCo, Syngenta and ZamSeed. At these demonstrations, discussions mainly focused on how the companies are reaching out to farmers and what farmers should expect from these companies.
The main concern of the farmers was on difficulties of accessing germplasm and how they can work with the seed companies from their specific countries. Lastly, farmers highlighted the need for farmer empowerment through deliberate effort to incorporate farmers as shareholders in the seed companies and not just growers. Issues of fake seed affecting smallholder farmers was also raised by the farmers; and role of women and youth in seed production.