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IRRI leads capacity activities for CGIAR Seed Equal for rice in Africa

Scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in collaboration with the CGIAR Seed Equal Africa team and local partners, held capacity building activities for rice seed system stakeholders in Africa for the new CGIAR Initiative Seed Equal- Delivering Genetic Gains to Farmers Fields.

High-quality seeds and improved seed varieties are among the most important inputs farmers can utilize to enhance crop yield, climate adverse impact resilience, and profitability, contributing to regional food and nutrition security.

This new global initiative aims to support the seed delivery to farmers of high-quality, climate-resilient, market-preferred, and nutritious varieties of priority crops, while ensuring equitable access for women and other disadvantaged groups. The Initiative promotes improvement in seed systems and value chains as an effective method to distribute genetic gains for yield, reduce adverse environmental stresses and pests and diseases, and support national seed systems.

Organized under the Seed Equal Work Package 4 component, the purpose of the activities, which included a pre-workshop meeting and the main workshop proper, was to introduce the Seed Equal Initiative to African countries’ stakeholders and establish the Training of Trainers (ToT) model for capacity enhancement in 3 parts - capacity sharing, capacity support, and capacity sustenance. Capacity Sharing is the dissemination of knowledge and information; Capacity Support is training, relevant financial grants, and necessary tools and equipment; and Capacity Sustenance is education and training of farmer leaders, seed agronomists and other supply chain stakeholders for long-term knowledge and support transfer, leading to sustainability and passing on capacity to farmers and other stakeholders in a continuum.

The pre-workshop meeting was held in August 2022 to plan the overall agenda and structure of the main workshop and to tailor the workshop to the specific needs and issues of African countries’ rice seed systems. Territories identified include Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, countries in West Africa through AfricaRice, and countries in South America through involvement of CIAT, due to the volume and spread of activities involved. Consultations were made with internal and external stakeholders, including the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), to develop a strategic way forward.

The workshop was held September 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, with over 80 participants joining either physically or virtually. Representatives from several African and international organizations attended, constituting rice-producing countries in Africa, South Asia, and Southern America. Presenters during the workshop included Dr. Shoba Venkatanagappa, Dr. Swati Nayak, Dr. Nathalie Vignaux, Dr. Ranjitha Puskur, Mr. Samit Kumar, Dr. T. Kessy, Dr. Emily Gichuhi, Dr. Daniel Menge, Mr. Charles Owino, Dr. Martin Ndomondo, Dr. Ian Barker, and Dr. Ajay Panchbhai.

During the 2-day workshop, a variety of topics were presented and discussed, including: introduction to Seed Equal, IRRI breeding and variety development, multi-location testing and selection, varietal release systems in ESA, COMESA, developing innovative and inclusive seed systems, market segments, seed certification in Tanzania and West Africa, product profiling and management, and varietal positioning and seed scaling (formal and informal seed systems). Participants were given ample opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback and perspectives, particularly on implementing effective seed systems in the African context.

This 2023, the Seed Equal team plans to scale up its engagement across Africa with more workshops and activities for the effective implementation of the initiative in the region.