Integrated Seed Sector programme for Africa launched in Nairobi

Maize1Smallholder farmers face challenges in getting reliable and timely access to good quality seeds at the right price.

A new Africa-wide pilot project aims to support the development of a market-oriented, pluralistic, vibrant and dynamic seed sector in Africa. Launched on 18 September in Nairobi, it will use an Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) approach to address this challenge.

Video, photos and press coverage from the launch are now available to view.


Event details

Official Launch of the Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa Pilot Phase: September 2014 – August 2016

Crowne Plaza, Nairobi, Kenya
18 September 2014


  • Janet Edeme (Head of Division, Rural Economy and Agriculture Department, African Union Commission (AUC), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
  • Walter de Boef (Senior Program Officer, Functional Group Lead-Input Delivery, Agricultural Development, Global Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF))
  • Marja Thijssen (Wageningen UR ISSD Africa Coordinator, Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR, The Netherlands)
  • Gerbrand Haverkamp (Policy Officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs, The Netherlands)
  • Johnson Irungu (Director of Crop Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya)
  • Mary Mathenge (Director, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development)

Download the programme (pdf) and the press release (pdf).


About the launch

A new comprehensive programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development for Africa (ISSD Africa), launched on 18 September in Nairobi, looks to support a vibrant, dynamic and diverse seed sector in the continent. The launch kicked off a two-year piloting phase which aims to lay the groundwork for a wider and longer-term programme.

A flourishing African seed sector, centred around small farmers, could bring huge benefits to agricultural development and farmers’ livelihoods. But seed systems in Africa are fragmented, and informal systems – which make up the vast majority of the sector and are overwhelmingly used by small farmers – often go unrecognised by policy makers.

Mary Mathenge, Director of the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, said the initiative would foster a market oriented, vibrant & dynamic seed sector in Africa. The aim was to provide access to quality seed of superior varieties, both improved & local, by recognising both informal and formal seed systems.

edemeThe potential benefits of use of quality seeds can be enormous, said Janet Edeme (pictured, right) of the African Union Commission in her keynote address. The benefits included employment, resistance to drought or pests, and greater food security. She pointed to the recent history of co-operation on seeds by African Union, CAADP and regional bodies, upon which ISSD Africa’s work would build.

Johnson Irungu, of the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, said that the vast majority of farmers in Kenya rely on informal systems. A concerted effort of all players in the seed industry and the public sector was needed, as well as partnerships to improve access for farmers.

Walter de Boef of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pointed out that it was beyond the scope of national governments to solve some of the obstacles to seed access for farmers. Catalytic investment was needed at national level, but action at continental level was needed too. In this A sound evidence base was vital to establish what mechanisms were effective or not.

Gerbrand Haverkamp of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs noted the role that companies, research institutions and governments have had in changing plant breeding. But the seed sector was diverse, he said, and this diversity was often underestimated.

Marja Thijssen (Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR) said that the programme would aim to build programmes on a diversity of seed systems, and strengthen seed governance. She explained that the programme aimed to address 4 topics: (1) common challenges to promoting entrepreneurship in seed value chains; (2) access to varieties in the public domain; (3) matching global commitments with national realities and (4) Supporting Africa-wide programmes related to agricultural and seed sector development.

Video: short interviews

Participants at the event told us about their hopes for ISSD Africa, their thoughts on the challenges faced by the seed sector in Africa, and what Integrated Seed Sector Development means for them (watch playlist on YouTube).

Video: launch event

Full video of the presentations from the launch (watch on YouTube)

Question & Answer session (watch on YouTube)

Media coverage

About ISSD Africa

The goal of the ISSD Africa Programme is to support the development of a market-oriented, pluralistic, vibrant and dynamic seed sector in Africa for providing both female and male smallholder farmers access to quality seed of superior varieties. This pilot phase is intended to contribute to thedevelopment of a five-year Comprehensive Program on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa.

ISSD is a comprehensive, inclusive and systems-based approach to seed sector development, based on a set of guiding principles which emphasises pluralism, public-private partnerships, formal-informal linkages, and seed value chain development and entrepreneurship. The approach has been refined over two phases of research in eight countries in Africa.