By Geoffrey Otim, Seed System & Policy Manager, Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Plus Project in Uganda

I started producing Quality Declared Seed (QDS) in 2013 after receiving trainings from ISSD Uganda. Our group was chosen because of our hard work and recommendation from the District Agricultural Officer (DAO), Lira. Two major benefits from our production and marketing of QDS are: i) We, as Local Seed Business (LSB), have developed a business opportunity that serves fellow farmers; ii) Many farmers buying QDS from us have since improved their crop yields, household food security and can also take their children to school. QDS is a life changer to many of us and will be for farmers in Uganda. The government efforts to formalise QDS by including it in the National Seed Policy is our biggest strength to trade in QDS formally”. These are words of Mr. Opobo Charles, a member of a LSB in Amach sub County, Lira district, Northern Uganda.

The use of good quality seed and planting materials of high yielding varieties significantly increases crop production. It is essential that it be availed on time, at the right place and at affordable prices. Seed and planting materials in Uganda are availed to farmers through two co-existing seed systems. The formal system, regulated by Government and contributing about 15% of total seed supply. Eighty-five percent that remains is through the informal system, unregulated and dependent on farm-saved seed from previous cropping season, local markets and social networks. QDS, a novel expanding of the formal system, works toward tapping this large number of farmers to see that they are able to access affordable quality seed of their desired varieties. These groups have since focused on seed for pulses (beans, cowpea, pigeon pea and green gram); oil crops (groundnut, soybean and sesame); vegetatively propagated crops (Irish potato, sweet potato and cassava); small grains (finger millet) and cereals (sorghum and rice).

QDS refers to quality seed produced by a trained group of farmers or individuals for marketing within their community. It mainly targets self-pollinated crops that have lesser interest from commercial seed companies. Quality assurance focuses on purity, germination and moisture content designed in a less strict and resource efficient environment compared to the certified seed system. It aims to bring quality seed to smallholder farmers at affordable prices and involve them in seed production. The regimes of quality control is as follows:

  • The QDS producer obtains starter seed from authorized source and are given certificate of foundation seed acquisition

  • The QDS fields are registered through submission of planting returns to the authorized government seed inspectors (the DAOs)

  • Samples are taken to the Seed Testing Laboratory to assess the quality parameters at the cost of the LSB

  • Fields are inspected, at least twice, and fields that have passed inspection are harvested for seed

  • QDS lots, which have passed laboratory testing, are marketed with tamper-proof labels (green in color as above) issued by Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

QDS is thus designed to complement the traditional seed and planting material inspection and certification scheme. In 2016, an official green QDS label was launched by the President of Uganda, and is being promoted along with the blue label for certified seed (see above). The use of quality seed in Uganda is improving. Following the introduction of the QDS class, more smallholder farmers have been empowered and have now started to appreciate the value of using quality seed. To-date, 263 LSBs in 63 districts and six regions of Uganda are engaged in the production and marketing of QDS and this is contributing to improved livelihoods. Each LSB has 20-30 members (men, women and youth).

Set of Questions to stimulate thinking…

  • Has anyone worked on QDS particularly in Africa and what has been the response?
  • Has anyone worked on QDS in Uganda and what has been the level of acceptance with farmers?

  • Any general comments by those with experience with QDS?

More to come…

  1. Specific Costs and Benefits of QDS

  2. What is the future QDS in Uganda and possible impediments to its expansion