Investment in extension services’ll enhance proper usage of seeds – stakeholders

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Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have called for investment in extension advisory services  to enhance proper usage of seeds and agricultural productivity.

They made the call in Abuja at the 5th edition of SeedConnect Africa  organised by the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), on Monday.

The 2-day event is an annual programme, where stakeholders in the seed industry around the world converge to discuss issues affecting the seed industry.

The Head of Building Sustainable Seed System for Cassava (BASIC II), Prof. Lateef Sanni, said poor funding of the Agricultural Development Program (ADP) had weakened the extension advisory services for seed.

Sanni, who is also a Professor of Food Science and Technology, said investment in extension advisory services would enhance proper usage of seeds which according to him will further enhance agricultural productivity.

“If you look at what the World Bank did by setting up state Agricultural Development Program (ADP). They were the best tool to actually extend some of these technologies and best practices to farmers in rural level.

“But unfortunately, we keep on reducing the funding to ADPs. For instance, we have about 1000 seed producers but for us to reach them, we have to make use of some of the ADPs and some private NGOs.

“So, the combination of those public and private extension advisory support is very important to reach to millions of farmers.

“It is one thing for you to plant high yielding disease resistant seed and it is another thing for you to use good agronomic practices or six steps in weed management.

“So, investment in extension advisory services is a key principal factor to enhancing our agricultural productivity as a nation,” he said.

Sanni also called on the Nigeria government to invest in agricultural Universities to have a seed technical hub, which he said would enhance the development of the country’s seed system.

“Another thing is that, nobody is investing in university to have Seed Technical Hub in all the Universities in each region.

“At least, in six universities to cover our agroecological zones as a nation.

“Most universities are not part of this type of interventions. This is an area I want to call on thy Federal Government to look into.

“There is need to support seed development centres, especially in universities of agriculture and universities that have strong faculty of agriculture in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr Mainza Mugoya, the Programme Coordinator, African Seed Access Index (TASAI), said quality control, capacity of seed companies, extension services and funding for research institutes remains the major challenges of the seed system.

He stressed that challenges in the seed industry varied in Africa, adding that in Nigeria, the extension services capacity “is still a bit weaker.

“There are several challenges in the seed system and these challenges vary by country. In Nigeria, one of the challenge is still on quality control.

“There is also the need to ensure that quality is maintained in the very beginning from research through production of basic seed, through the processing of the seed up to commercialisation.

“Because any of those steps can be compromised with the expected quality.”

According to him, the second challenge is the capacity of the seed companies.

He explained that seed companies needed to have capacity to meet the quality control guidelines that the government has set.

“That is the production standard, the inspection standard, the processing standard, the labelling and marketing standard have to be adhered to the latter.

“Sometimes, when companies are established they need time to build their capacity to meet those standards” , he said.

He equally highlighted funding and technical support to research institutions that develop seed varieties which were commercialised for farmers.

“In many cases, these institutions lack the funding to do the breeding activities and also maintaining the varieties they have produced.”

On his part, the Director-General, NASC, Dr Philip Ojo, said the importance of SeedConnect Africa cannot be overemphasised as it brought together seed industry stakeholders from all over the world to discuss.

He added that this was an opportunity for stakeholders to deliberate on issues and topics of mutual benefits to seed system.

Ojo disclosed that the SeedConnect Africa over the years gave way for the introduction of Plant Variety Protection (PVP Act 2021) Law in Nigeria.

This journey according to him started fully in 2018 shortly after the first edition of the SeedConnect Africa.

“Today I am happy to announce that Nigeria has a PVP Act and we are making efforts to complete the Nigerian membership of the International Union of Protection of New Plant Variety.

“We are currently doing a lot to operationalise this law, we have begin the process of setting up the PVP office.

“Currently, we have a draft regulation which was reviewed and validated by experts,” he said.

He added that What the council achieved from SeedConnect was the amendment of the NASC Seed Act with the introduction of stiffer penalties and solid foundations for the introduction of technologies to police the seed industry.

“With our collaboration with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), we have been able to scale up seed market surveillance and enforcement of standards because we need to sanitise the Nigerian seed industry.

The Minister of Agriculture, Dr Mohammad Abubakar commended the effort of NASC in supporting various development, registration and release of improved, quality seed that were sold to farmers.

He further encouraged private sectors participation in seed operations.

“What we are doing here is in line with the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy of strengthening research, innovation and extension service.

“This is for the purpose of generating and disseminating knowledge to agricultural value chains actors to increase domestic output and reduce food import.

“Seeds and seedlings are the foundation materials for producing our arrays of carbohydrate and protein content crops which constituted a major portion of food consumption in the country.

“It means that any attempt to explore and diversify the production of food and cash crops is a practical way of ensuring food security in the country”, he said.