Background: A study conducted in 2012/13 in 13 West African countries showed high market potential for seeds of major cereals and legumes such as rice, maize, sorghum, cowpea and groundnut, estimated at 1,335,437 tons, compared to an actual supply of 182,035 tons, representing 13.6% of the estimated potential. An earlier study revealed inadequate supply of breeder and foundation seeds, as a major bottleneck to increased certified seed supplyin the region. Another constraint identified was low human and infrastructure capacity of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), which have the mandate to produce breeder seeds.
WASP is Addressing Seed Sector Capacity Gaps: To equip personnel with the requisite knowledge and skills for producingseed that meet the quality standards spelt out in the West Africa Seed Regulations,nearly 600 individuals (20% beingwomen)have been trainedon best practices in seed production in major regional led efforts. These individualsare technical staff in-charge of seed production fields and processing units ofresearch institutions, private sector seed producers, as well as seed quality control agencies.A survey on the impact of these trainings conducted in 2014 showed that each individual trained passed on the knowledge acquired to an average of eight (8) personnel under their supervision. WASP is a comprehensive effort that is bringing a holistic approach to scaling-up and improving the seed system in West Africa.
A Guide and Terms of Reference (ToR) for training seed unit staff at the MSc level in seed related courses have been developed in collaboration with selected universities in the region to help churn out critical mass of seed sector experts in the region through the support of CORAF/WECARD and partners.In line withCORAF/WECARD’s gender policy and,to breach the gap between women and men participation in the seed sector, these documents clearly state that at least 60% of the beneficiaries of this intervention will be women. One of the major challenges in ensuring the quality of breeder seed produced by the NARIs is the lack of basic infrastructure.
In a bid to strengthen the infrastructural capacityof the NARS, four sets of 2 ton/hr seed processing system for the cleaning of rice, maize and other crops and basic laboratory equipment for the conduct of purity, germination and moisture content analysis valued at US$ 420 032. 64were procured, to be delivered to four NARIs in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger by the end of September, 2015 to ensure quality compliance.The installation of the equipment will put an end to an era of manually processing orlining up harvested material of the highest seed class, in long queues to use equipment meant for grain processing, anaction, which tremendously reduced the quality of subsequent classes of seed supplied to farmers.It is envisaged that, internal quality control and quality assurance systems for breeder seed production will be institutionalized at these organizations.
Estimation of Seed Needs: A modeling tool designed by WASP for the estimation of seed demand, helped the seven focus countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to accurately estimate the quantities of breeder seed (BS) required and to develop five-year (2013-2017) seed production road-maps. In addition, IITA,through the WASP offices, conducts needs assessment to determine the amount of breeder seed of OPVs and inbred lines of maize required to supplement country level productions. The outcome of this exercise is the timely availability of adequate quantities of quality breeder seed of the required varieties,the lack of which used to be a major bottleneck to foundation seed and subsequent certified seed production in these countries.
Support to Produce Breeder Seeds of Climate Smart Varieties: In response to the regional realities of climate change, WASP continues to give high importanceto climate smart crop varieties which are new, early or extra early maturing, and tolerant to stresses including drought, diseases, iron toxicity and salinity. Financial support given to nine NARS in Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria as well as to IITA and AfricaRice has resulted in an average production of 55 tons of quality breeder seeds (mainly rice, maize and sorghum) per year in 2013 and 2014, which constituted 50% of the total annual production in the region. An annual production of at least 3,590 tons of foundation seed is expected from the 55 tons of breeder seed, boosting the ensuing production and supply of certified seed to farmers.Thisfoundation seed is produced by private enterprises (through Public-Private-Partnership); which hitherto was only allowed to produce certified seed. At the end of 2015, additional 80 tons of breeder seed is expected to be produced through WASP funding, for the production of foundation seed in 2016.
Conclusion: WASP is a bold high paced regional seed initiative that is introducing seed of new and improved crop varieties, building capacity throughout the NARS to improve response to regional seed demand and working to support private sector scale-up of foundation and certified throughout West Africa.