PIC: From left, Charles Mukama, Benito Eliasi, Daniel Njiwa and Dr John Mukuka interacting during the COMESA meeting at Munyonyo, Kampala on Thursday. (Credit: Nancy Nanyonga)
KAMPALA - Countries under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have been asked to allocate part of their budgets towards the promotion of a harmonized seed trade system for them to realize increased food production.
A harmonized seed trade system will see farmers access quality seeds from all parts of the region at fair prices. This is expected to stimulate seed trade in the private sector and increased food production due to availability of seed.
The call was made by Daniel Njiwa from Food Trade during the second meeting of the Seed Program Advisory Committee in Kampala on Thursday.
The meeting was aimed at reviewing progress in the domestication of the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations within the seed development programme in line with COMSHIP, the status of COMSHIP at regional level and financial status of COMSHIP at regional and national level.
It was organized with financial support from ACTESA, COMESA, and Ministry of Agriculture with financial support from USAID, UKaid, and the Africa Seed Trade Association.
Njiwa said food trade with funding from UKaid has been supporting the seed harmonization process and its domestication in member countries since 2014 but other countries haven't been reached due to inadequate funding.
"Results from our efforts show that we could do much more if we had enough funding especially from governments. This will not only attract more donor support but also make it mandatory for governments to monitor the process closely for the country to benefit as a whole."
He said government funding will be key especially when implementing the laws under the seed harmonization process and also helping farmers get to the COMESA catalogue where they can showcase their products for farmers in other countries to buy.
Argent Chuula, the executive director of the Alliance for Commodity Trade in East and Southern Africa, (ACTESA), said that at the moment the region produces only 20% of quality seed, leaving out a gap of 80% and this has been taken advantage of by fake seed.
He added that regional seed trade is too small due to many regulations from individual member countries.
"So the harmonization process will take care of the different regulations which are preventing the release of some varieties, and also address the length procedures of releasing seed in member countries, delaying the release of quality seed on the market for farmers," he said.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Pius Wakabi Kasaija, who was represented at the meeting, said government appreciates the potential benefits from the use of good quality seed and its availability to farmers so they can increase productivity.
"When production increases through the use of adapted varieties, it can create employment through opportunities related to processing, marketing and other activities generated through quality seed production," said Dr. Charles Mukama, the Focal person for the COMESA harmonization process in Uganda, on behalf of Wakabi.
The PS however said although agriculture significantly contributes to the economy of Uganda, average yields obtained by farming communities are low compared to the yield potential of most crop varieties grown in the country and in the region as a whole.
"This is partly attributed to the limited use of improved seeds in the country, which is estimated at less than 10%. As a result, many households do not only lack a surplus for sale but also lack enough for their own consumption," he said.
Through the five-year Agriculture Sector Strategic plan (2015/16 – 2020/21), one of the four priority intervention areas is provision of critical improved seeds and planting materials to farmers in order to prop up agricultural productivity and production, he said.
"This policy framework is a clear indication that the Government of Uganda and Ministry for Agriculture in particular has full support for the COMESA Seed sector development program."