In West and Central Africa (WCA), sustainable intensification of agriculture is essential to achieve the objectives of eradicating hunger and poverty reduction in a context of increasing climate change and variability. The increase in agricultural productivity expected from intensification of agricultural production is based mainly on seeds which contribute at least for 40% in the formation of crop yield. More or less recent efforts have been made to improve the accessibility and use of certified seeds of improved varieties by farmers. This is particularly the case of the West Africa Seed Programme (WASP) and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) respectively funded mainly by USAID and the World Bank and implemented by CORAF / WECARD on behalf of Regional Economic Community (ECOWAS, WAEMU) and in partnership with regional and international organizations (AFSTA, Hub rural, ROPPA, CGIAR etc.).
Despite a growing number of initiatives for the development of seed sector at national and regional levels in WCA, the implementation of inclusive and efficient strategies to ensure the availability of sufficient quantities of certified seeds of improved varieties is still an important issue. Key elements for the development and operationalization of such strategies are still lacking. Hence the necessity to undertake a deep reflection for more efficient and innovative intervention strategies to guide public decision-making process and private investment in the seed sector. It is in this context that CORAF / WECARD and the FARM Foundation organized in partnership an electronic forum on topic “Meeting the challenge of crop improvement and development of the seed sector in WCA”. The objective of this electronic forum held during the months of March and April 2016 was to contribute to the sustainable improvement of agricultural productivity from a shared diagnosis leading to strategic and innovative development actions in the seed sector in West and Central Africa.
This electronic forum registered a high attendance and very rich contributions from the 350 participants who were coming from research, quality control services, private sector, including producers’ organizations and civil society. Complementary and sometimes conflicting points of view were shared providing several angles of analysis and highlighted the main determinants that foster or hinder the emergence of an effective seed industry in WCA. Exchanges during the forum stressed the strong fragmentation of demand and supply of quality seeds, poor performance of breeding research and seed sectors, lack of consultation among stakeholders, poor operationalization of regional and national policies, the issue of coexistence of traditional varieties and farmers’ seeds systems besides the formal seed system and improved varieties etc. Several potential solutions both at strategic and operational levels also emerged from the discussions. These solutions have been grouped into four strategic areas of action articulated in form of recommendations: (i) improving governance of the seed sector; (ii) strengthening demand and seed supply; (iii) developing of innovative mechanisms for research – development on seeds and (iv) improving and operationalizing policies and strategic frameworks.