Africa’s first center for excellence for developing improved seed launched

A new center has been launched to champion development of improved quality, high-yielding seeds for various crop varieties in Africa with the goal of boosting agricultural productivity.

The Center of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) was unveiled today at the AGRF 2021 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. It will be hosted at AGRA (the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), whose role will be convening seed actors to help fill gaps, and build capacities and varieties that respond to needs of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa.

The center will begin operations in 2022, supporting governments, private sector and development partners to deliver modern, effective and resilient seed systems that serve African farmers better. It will strengthen the seed value chain, particularly variety development and release, production and distribution of both early generation and certified seed, farmer awareness creation and participation, quality assurance, national planning, policy and regulatory frameworks.

“Initiatives for improving Africa’s seed systems by different public and private actors remain uncoordinated today. With partners, CESSA will bridge this gap, supporting informed, evidence-based decision making, investments and provision of technical advice and support for implementation of improved seed systems,” said Dr. George Bigirwa, AGRA’s Deputy Vice President for Program Innovations and Delivery.

CESSA, working with partners, will conduct national seed system analyses, provide advisory services and external technical assistance, as well as training and capacity building for the seed sector. This is in addition to fostering partnerships and networks leading to grants and other investments in the sector. Dr Bigirwa noted: “We invite partners, countries and other agriculture sector stakeholders to partner
with AGRA in this initiative to enhance sustainable productivity in African farms”.

AGRA has been contributing to the development of Africa’s seed system since 2006, when it was founded. In under 15 years, the organization has funded development and release of 659 improved varieties for 18 crops. This is in addition to supporting 119 homegrown seed companies in 18 African countries, which have, until now, produced 847,655 metric tonnes of quality seed, benefiting 25.1 million farmers.

Over the last year, AGRA has piloted a diagnostic process for seed systems, known as Seed System Assessment Tool (SeedSAT), in Ethiopia and Nigeria. Lessons from the SeedSAT, which will be one of the center’s components, will be used to deepen country-specific requirements.

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