How to Improve Household-level Food Security, by International Seed Federation

IITA management team, with the Australian High Commissioner and his team.

International Seed Federation (ISF) says farmers need timely access to quality seed and other essential agricultural inputs to ensure optimal crop yield contributing to improved household-level food security.

ISF is a non-governmental, non-profit making organisation that represents the interests of the seed industry at a global level. It increases recognition of its members’ contributions to food security and sustainable agriculture.

While it facilitates the free movement of seed within a framework of fair and science-based regulations, whilst serving the interests of farmers, growers, industry and consumers, it also promotes the establishment and protection of intellectual property rights for seeds, plant varieties and associated technologies; publishes rules for trading seed and licensing technology to clarify and standardize contractual relations between buyers and sellers at an international level; and provides for the settlement of disputes through mediation, conciliation and/or arbitration.

ISF fosters cooperation and collaboration through its calendar of events, enabling seed industry stakeholders to identify issues, stimulate strategic thinking and accelerate the adoption of common positions as well as works in partnership with organisations responsible for international treaties, conventions and agreements and those that shape the policies affecting the global seed industry.

“The world’s long-term stability rests on several pillars, one of which is food security. Seed is the starting point of the food system, and farmers everywhere depend on access to quality seed to grow healthy crops”, ISF says

This was as the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, John Donnelly, proposed an area of collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on a recent visit to the Institute’s headquarters.

Donnelly was accompanied by his spouse, Madame Sunita Kofnala, and Political and Economic Officer Tosin Gbolasere.

Representing IITA Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, Deputy Director-General for Corporate Services Hilda Koper, welcomed the team warmly and introduced them to IITA’s technologies and activities.

Following the introduction, Legume Geneticist and Breeder, Christian Fatokun, on behalf of the  West African Hub Director, Michael Abberton, spoke about IITA Research-for-Development activities in the West Africa hub.

He highlighted IITA’s work on six mandate crops, cutting across all research areas and IITA’s works with different partners in each country and mainstreaming women and youth into its programs. “Through our plant health laboratory, we also support the Nigerian government to ensure that seeds imported into the country meet international plant quarantine standards,” he said.

Head of Project Development and Administration Unit (PDAU), Kayode Awobajo, spoke on the support of the Australian government to IITA over the years. He harped on, many collaborations between IITA and the Australian government, emphasizing the immense support received from the Australian government between 2011 and 2018. “We look forward to furthering collaboration after this visit,” he said.

YEASA Coordinator, Oluyemi Adunoye explained the activities of IITA Youth Agripreneur (IYA). She shared how the DG established IYA to create job opportunities for youth in agriculture. IYA achieves this through training programs to help the youth become employable and successfully start up agribusiness enterprises.

“IYA has expanded to 10 countries and reached out to over twenty thousand since inception”, she said.

IITA Forest Center Manager, Adewale Awoyemi, spoke on the activities of the IITA Forest. He mentioned that IITA fully supports natural resources management. Hence it dedicated about 35% of its land to forest conservation.

He added that IITA has a globally recognized site for bird conservation, botanical garden, and Tree Heritage Park, where native trees are propagated.

“Through funding from the Direct Aid Program of the Australian embassy, we upgraded our nursery so that we could propagate native trees and upgraded our website to produce a step-by-step manual of propagation for native trees. We also built the first Forest School for students and family groups to learn about the forest environment”, he said.

After the presentations, Donnelly explained that the purpose of his visit has to do with his Institute’s interest in exploring wheat production with IITA. Although wheat is not part of IITA mandate crops, the Australian envoy is proposing collaboration in that area should IITA, through agricultural cooperation, be willing to add wheat to its mandate crops.

Fatokun and Koper responded that since IITA is now a part of One CGIAR, the Institute can work withICARDA—a sister Institution in the One CGIAR working on wheat, to collaborate on the project. Madame Kofnala also shared her interest in IITA’s forest activities.

However, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “In many developing countries (including Nigeria), farmers have not yet been able to fully benefit from the advantages of using quality seed due to a combination of factors, including inefficient seed production, distribution, and quality assurance systems, as well as bottlenecks caused by a lack of good seed policy on key issues such as access to credit for inputs.”

To adequately address the issue of quality seed and its availability, IITA, under the Feed the Future Nigeria Integrated Agriculture Activity, established an effective partnership in September 2019 with the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC). The NASC agency of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) oversees the development and regulation of Nigeria’s seed industry.

The partnership was established specifically to develop a sustainable seed system that will produce quality seeds and make them available locally in Northeast Nigeria. The Community Based Seed Enterprise (CBSE), seed companies, IITA, and NASC are the stakeholders of this seed system.

Under the partnership, the Activity facilitates foundation seeds from IITA and other relevant research institutes to CBSEs, trained and supervised by the Activity and NASC officers to produce seeds certified by NASC.

The partnership facilitates the selection, training, and development of 1,185 community-based seed producers (CBSP) from the Producer Groups of Farmers. It promotes the sustainable production of certified seeds at the community level.

A recent evaluation study—Integrated Agriculture Activity 2021 annual survey—indicated that a total of 33,165 smallholder farmers are accessing 529 tons of certified seeds from the established community-based seed producers across the two implementation states—Adamawa and Borno—through this partnership.

This partnership has created access to high-yielding varieties, developed greater climate resilience, and generated income through employment creation for smallholder farmers.

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