Article by: Geoffrey Otim, Seed Systems and Policy Manager, ISSD Uganda

Quality seed is a key determinant of farming success and the efficiency in seed systems greatly determines farmers’ access to this seed. Uganda’s quest at streamlining quality declared seed (QDS) has come with a mixed basket of outcomes. The National Agriculture Policy 2013 is the overall national framework aimed at modernizing the country’s agriculture. In this, the Government of Uganda has laid out a plan on how to develop the seed subsector, an integral part of agriculture. It hopes to achieve this through a more pluralistic, inclusive, equitable, decentralized and integrated sector. The Seed and Plant Act 2006 provides the regulatory framework for operationalization of this plan.

QDS, being seed produced by farmers for business, is one of the strategies explained in the National Seed Policy and the document provides a context for its institutionalization. This policy and regulatory framework are essential to promoting, regulating and controlling plant breeding, and variety release; seed multiplication, conditioning, marketing, importation and quality control. The Policy seeks to ensure availability and access to safe and high-quality seed to all stakeholders in pluralistic seed systems.

The Policy also explains that Government will come up with separate regulations to control the production and marketing of QDS in Uganda. This is already in advanced stages and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), in collaboration with Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Uganda, has already made remarkable progress to produce draft QDS regulations. These regulations will ensure that all farmer groups producing QDS are formally registered with MAAIF through the District Agricultural Officer (DAO).

Presently, regulation of QDS systems is by MAAIF and District Local Government (at field levels by the DAOs). National Seed Certification Services (NSCS) have already trained about 65 Agricultural Officers for QDS field inspection. This decentralization serves as an institutional arrangement to reduce the cost of operations in QDS systems.

ISSD Uganda is working with the National Agricultural Organization (NARO) to institutionalize the production and marketing of Early Generation Seed (EGS). Through the implementation of Foundation Seed Enterprise (FSE), ISSD and NARO hope to improve supply and quality of EGS, especially for those low valued crops under the QDS system.

With QDS procedures managed at MAAIF, DAOs trained and delegated for field inspections, and the FSE producing and marketing foundation seed (mainly QDS crops, on a cost recovery basis) there is hope. This hope remains in the known Local Seed Businesses profitably making seed sales and farmers enjoying sustainable QDS systems in Uganda.

We believe farmer organizations – of which QDS producers are part – have a critical role to play in realization of fully functional QDS systems. Farmer producers will remain the link between their members and other stakeholders including the Government!

Readers: Please ask us further questions on how this QDS system is moving forward…