Increasing agricultural productivity is a priority issue in countries like Ethiopia. However, this can only be achieved if the inputs farmers are provided with are up to standard. One such crucial input is seed.
‘You reap what you sow’ is a common expression frequented locally. In agriculture terms, the kind of seed a farmer uses at the outset will have a big say in what is reaped eventually. Some analysts claim that a gram of high quality hybrid tomato seed sells at a higher price compared to the same gram of gold, emphasizing the importance of this input.
The dire food insecurity scenario developing countries struggle with can partially be attributed to the lack of improved varieties of seed at the hands of individual farmers.
Seed security is an issue in most developing economies and as it is a means of achieving food security, one cannot afford to ignore the sector and expect better results. Hence, the seed sector needs all the attention it can garner from everyone involved.
Public entities such as the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise are the main sources of seed when it comes to the formal system which supplies only 5-10% of the national seed demand. The system is said to have difficulties in sourcing seeds to all corners of the country on its own, calling for more actors in the area.
As is the case throughout the world, the major source of seed in Ethiopia remains to be that of farmer saved. Although this is a vital source of seed, its yielding potential can be significantly improved. The fact that improved seed is hard to come by is not helping much in the country’s effort to accelerate agricultural development.
This in mind, the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Program was incepted in 2009.
The program’s Local Seed Business (LSB) project was initiated in the same year to support farmers who are organized in seed producing cooperatives. The development objective of the programme is to strengthen the development of a vibrant, commercial and pluralistic seed sector in Ethiopia.
Given the poor infrastructure in rural Ethiopia, reaching farmers in isolated villages with quality seed supplies will be a daunting task for all actors, either public, private or NGOs. Empowering smallholder farmers to become seed entrepreneurs within their locality is the aim behind the project.
ISSD champions the idea that a solitary seed actor cannot address the seed demand of the country. It thus works with various players in the sector to achieve agricultural productivity thereby ensuring food security.
The Ethiopian seed sector can benefit from the concerted efforts of several stakeholders. Besides, the diversity in agro-ecosystems in Ethiopia calls for myriad actors in the sector. Hence, the sector can be an area to explore for future investors given the urge the country finds itself in securing food in the long run. The ever increasing demand that already exists among Ethiopian farmers for quality seed of improved varieties is another impetus for joining the seed business.
As one of the components of ISSD Ethiopia program, the private sector has a great role to play in the seed sector. In three years, the program aims to contribute to several foreign and national seed companies becoming operational in Ethiopia, facilitating investment in seed production and marketing. Increasing the number of private small and medium-scale seed producers will surely boost the production of quality seed of superior varieties in Ethiopia.