Background: The objective of the ECOWAS-UEMOA-CILSS regulation is to implement harmonized rules governing quality control, certification and marketing of plant seeds and seedlings in the ECOWAS-UEMOA-CILSS region to expand seed trade across borders. However, this objective had not been effectively accomplished due to the failure to establish a coordinating body, namely the West Africa Seed Committee as stipulated in the Regulation since its adoption by CILSS in 2006, ECOWAS in 2008 and UEMOA in 2009.
As a result, Member States, sometimes with the support of Development Programs and Donor Agencies had developed regulations that are mostly in disharmony with Regional Regulation. This created enormous misunderstanding and confusion and had resulted in vast differences in the contents of the national seed regulations with improper implementation procedures. Realizing this, the ECOWAS Commission confided to CORAF/WECARD in 2013, the establishment of the WASC/COASem to carry out its mission and functions and to coordinate the National Seed Committees (NSCs) in the 17 ECOWAS-UEMAO-CILSS countries for a provisional period of five years. The main elements being implemented in the Regulation are classified as follows:
Interventions: Through the intervention of WASP and partners, the countries have been assisted to implement the Regulation using a more harmonized approach, which has resulted in a remarkable increase in implementation from 41% to 77% between 2013 and 2015 (Fig. 1a); it is worth to note that the yearly supply of certified seeds of the major cereals and legumes also increased from 182,000 MT to 372,000 MT (103%) within the same period. Presently, countries that have made significant advances in the implementation of the Regulation are Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal and are currently addressing 12 out of the 12 elements (100%; Fig 1b). These are followed by Nigeria and Togo with 11 elements (92%) being addressed, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali with 10 (83%), and then Ghana and Guinea, 9 (75%). Countries with moderately low levels of implementation are The Gambia and Sierra Leone (50%). Liberia, Chad, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde are considered very low (less that 33%). To further advance the implementation, consultative processes held among the regional policy institutions resulted in an agreed recommendation and a roadmap to establish one unique Seed Committee for the ECOWAS-UEMOA-CILSS Region. An Action Plan was then developed to guide the Committee (WASC/COASem & CRSU) to carry out its mission and functions and to coordinate the NSCs with WASP backstopping the process.
The Purpose of WASC/COASem-CRSU: The mission of the West Africa Seed Committee (WASC/COASem-CRSU) is “to assist the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions and CILSS Executive Secretariat in the implementation of the Regulation in force, related to Quality Control, Certification and Marketing of Seeds and Seedlings, in view of contributing to the development of the seed sector in Member States. The Functions the Committee are as follows:
a) Ensure compliance with and enforcement of rules and standards of the production, quality control, certification and marketing of seeds;
b) Give opinion and advice and make proposals on all matters related to seeds, in particular the organization and updating of the West African Catalogue of Plant Species and Varieties, hereinafter known as WACPSV/COAfEV, common to Member States;
c) Define the technical requirements for the presentation of dossiers for variety releases;
d) Ensure collaboration and exchange of information among National Seed Services in charge of seed quality control and certification in Member States;
e) Monitor the organization and management of official agencies in charge of seed quality control and certification in Member States.
Launching the WASC/COASem-CRSU: The official launching of the Regional Committee (WASC/COASem-CRSU) and its First Statutory meeting held in Abidjan on 3rd and 4th August 2015 therefore marked a significant milestone to boost the implementation of the Regulation using a more harmonized approach. This is expected to further open the seed market, attract more investment and to accelerate the production, marketing and use of quality seeds to improve agricultural productivity in the ECOWAS-UEMOA-CILSS region.