Outscaling of the Local Seed Business beyond the ISSD Uganda projects

Uganda’s seed sub-sector ten years back

The inherent problem of the seed sector in Uganda has always been the limited level of access to and use of quality seed of improved crop varieties by smallholder farmers which is estimated to be no more than 20%. This percentage largely consists of seed for maize and sunflower hybrids and imported vegetable seed. There was evidently a large gap in availability of quality seed for important Open Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) of crops of legumes, oil seed, small cereals and roots and tubers commonly known as orphaned crops. These problems in Uganda’s seed sector resulted from limited; access to sufficient quantities of quality basic seed (early generation seed - EGS) as an input for quality seed production; access to affordable quality assurance services for quality seed growers; and at farmer uptake level, the insufficient awareness about the value of using quality seed.

Transformation of the seed sub-sector
Over the period 2013-2021, Wageningen University and Research Centre for Development Innovation (WUR-CDI) with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands embarked on transforming the seed sub-sector through the ISSD projects. These projects aimed at fostering pluralism through policy reforms to support alternative seed delivery systems that complement the then existing formal channels. At the same time, the projects implemented interventions to address all related challenges across the seed value chain in a systematic way.

The projects led to significant changes at regulatory level and at every node of the seed value chain. One of the most acclaimed innovations in Uganda seed sub-sector was the introduction of the farmer-led seed production system under which Quality Declared Seed (QDS) is produced and marketed through the Local Seed Business (LSB) model. By the end of the ISSD projects in 2021, a total of 250 LSBs had been established in 63 districts of the country. These farmer groups (LSBs) supplied quality seed of over 59 varieties of 14 major self-pollinating crops within rural farming communities in six agro-ecological zones in Uganda including; North, West Nile, South West, Western Highlands, South Western Highlands and East.

Scaling of LSB establishment over the projects’ period was implemented by 29 partners across all the six zones. These partners included private agro-enterprises, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and research institutes which were well placed to continuously offer remote support to LSBs even beyond the project period.
Beyond the ISSD projects
For many reasons, sustainability of results for most interventions is challenged after a project ends leading to difficulties in maintaining the achieved outcomes. However, ISSD Uganda has seen the LSB model attract considerable interest from development organisations since 2021 which is an indication that this approach was one of the biggest game changers in Uganda’s seed sub-sector. ISSD Uganda shares its experiences with some of the development partners that have taken on scaling of the LSB model since.
GIZ Uganda
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a public-benefit German company with worldwide operations in international cooperation for sustainable development. Under one of its concluded programmes, Rural Development Programme (PRUDEV) in Northern Uganda, GIZ aimed to improve agriculture-based development of the rural economy in selected districts of Northern Uganda. PRUDEV was commissioned by Bundesministerium Für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) and co-funded by the European Union (EU). Part of the PRUDEV program was the promotion of Climate Smart Agriculture (ProCSA) project, which the European Union co-founds to foster the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and approaches.

Through its PRUDEV programme, GIZ supported transformation of 18 farmer groups into Local Seed Businesses (LSBs) to produce and market quality declared seed (QDS) of various crop types and varieties in six districts of Northern Uganda. GIZ worked with World Vision Uganda as a local implementing partner to establish these LSBs in the districts of Lira, Oyam, Kitgum, Agago, Dokolo and Amolatar over the period 2021 and 2022.

At the end of 2022, GIZ contracted ISSD Uganda to strengthen capacity of the 18 newly formed LSBs to increase their chances of survival after the end of the PRUDEV programme. One of the key gaps which was identified through a diagnostic assessment of the 18 LSBs was the difficulty in accessing quality basic seed from research. Without Basic seed, it is impossible for a seed grower to produce quality seed.

Through joint action and collaboration with GIZ over a four months period, the LSBs indicated that they gained good knowledge from the coaching provided and they were more confident to continue with QDS production.
Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI)
NURI was among the eight development engagements under the Denmark-Uganda Country Programme 2018–2022 that aimed to enhance resilience and promote equitable economic development in parts of Northern Uganda, including refugees and refugee-hosting communities. NURI pursued this objective by supporting activities in climate-smart agriculture (CSA), rural infrastructure, and water resources management. The project was originally scheduled to end in 2022 but it was extended for one-year to address issues concerning sustainability of the interventions and greening of environment to combat climate change.

One of its sustainability strategies was the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP), which includes the use of quality seed for increased production. The challenge of limited access to quality seed by smallholder farmers prompted NURI to pilot the QDS system which could be achieved through integration of the LSB model in their current activities. NURI embarked on supporting the development of 69 farmer groups into LSBs that can sustainably produce and market QDS. The farmer groups were selected from districts of Agago, Kitgum and Lamwo in Acholi sub region, and Arua, Madi-Okollo, Terego, Pakwach, Nebbi, Zombo, Koboko, Moyo, Obongi and Adjumani.

To facilitate this LSB establishment process, NURI awarded ISSD Uganda a consultancy to strengthen its technical team in the LSB model and the QDS system between the period of February and September 2023. This was to enable staff to effectively support the development of the selected farmer groups into sustainable LSBs. This objective was achieved through three main activities i.e.
a) Training of trainers for the NURI team of extension workers
b) Monitoring visits to each of the locations where NURI established LSBs
c) Provision of LSB development materials relevant to both the NURI extension workers and LSB farmers

The development of the digital STTS require a systematic and a regulatory framework to achieve the institutional embedding of the system development. For Uganda, the system is fully embedded in the Seed and Plant Regulations 2016 and the Seed and Plant (QDS) Regulations 2020. These two institutional frameworks provided directions and legal framework on which the digital STTS was developed.
National Oil Seed Project (NOSP)
To accelerate commercialization in key oil seed value chains and thereby improve the livelihood and resilience of smallholder farmers, the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Local Government initiated the NOSP project in 2023. This project will be implemented in 53 districts of West Nile, Northern, Eastern and mid-Western Uganda. Under its first component to support oilseed value chain development, the project will utilize the LSB model to ensure that farmer groups involved in oilseed production have access to quality seed. Over a 10 year period, NOSP plans to support a total of 200 LSBs which will include newly established LSBs and already existing ones which need an upgrade.

The NOSP project plans to specifically stimulate LSBs to supply sufficient quantities of QDS to project farmers within their locations by;

1. Offering them capacity strengthening in production and marketing of QDS
2. Providing them with a subsidy to facilitate access to relevant inputs and equipment
3. Developing a network of NSCS-accredited private inspectors and labs

The third intervention in the seed value chain introduces a private sector-based inspection function to the seed sector as allowed by the Seed and Plant Regulations Act of 2017. This is an opportunity for the seed sub-sector to test a complementary approach to offering seed field inspection services considering that the current approach of utilizing the District Agricultural Officers is maimed by resource limitation.

Overall, it is important to note that LSB development is a slow process that calls for continued joint action and experience sharing to implement strategies that will ensure sustainability of the LSBs even beyond the various projects.

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