Seed Systems in Uganda: Review of Present Status and Future Needs

Seed systems provide a foundation for agricultural development. Agriculture is the dominant occupation in the continent, employing 70% of the population in Africa and 68% in Uganda. If governments are to transform rural areas and their people, investment has to target agriculture and the seed sector must be a high priority. Globally, tremendous gains have been achieved by using quality seed because crop performance as well as response of other inputs in crop production largely depends on the seed material planted. It is estimated that good quality seeds of improved varieties can contribute about 20-25% increase in yield in general, and much more in specific cases where new varieties overcome major disease problems. The seed industry in Uganda and other developing countries is however still evolving and faces numerous challenges. The Ugandan seed laws recognize the existence of only two seed systems, formal and informal seed systems, with almost exclusive emphasis on the formal systems. However, actual seed systems are very diverse when all crops and types of producers are considered. In this paper, the seed industry in Uganda is described in terms of five distinct Seed Systems in regard to seed production and supply: Formal Seed System, Cash Crop Seed System, Informal Seed System, Community-based Seed System and Individual Private Seed Producers and Seed Sellers. The current laws do not legitimize and strengthen the role of the various types of non-formal seed production and distribution in relation to variety release policy, production capacity for foundation seed, and quality control-- yet 95% of the planting material does not go through, and will not in the foreseeable future, go through the formal seed certification channels. In addition, farmers are not empowered enough to create a sustainable demand for seed at a scale that provides much incentive to registered seed companies/ producers. Although the government revolutionized extension services through establishment of a semi-autonomous organization, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), support to farmers as well as to seed companies from the public extension services has been inadequate and erratic. There is no clear policy on how the decentralized extension services to district local governments could be empowered to complement the few seed quality control agents at the national level and to aid the operation and quality control of non- formal seed systems. In light of these various challenges, the focus of this paper is to describe: 1) Seed-related polices and the current organization of the seed production and supply systems in Uganda, 2) Challenges along the seed value chain for various types of crops, 3) Characteristics of a diversified seed system that can effectively serve all farmers, regardless of crop and scale of production, and 4) Steps toward creation of a vibrant farmer-centered seed system.
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East Africa
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