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At a time when Kenya is considering changing its approach to crop seed certification – a major point of discussion and negotiation between the private and public sectors – a trip to South Africa to study the country’s advanced certification process proved to be very timely.

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Kenya delegation visits official seed laboratory to learn about government role in seed certification in South Africa

Unlike Kenya’s system, the South African system is largely based on self-regulation, with appropriate checks and balances.
Seed certification is not mandatory in South Africa, unless a private sector company stipulates that its seed can only be sold if certified. As a result, a very effective and highly market-driven system has evolved, with various levels of certification based on customer preferences and price points.
In 1989, the South African government decided to stop certifying seed, and the South African National Seed Organization (SANSOR) stepped in to fill the gap after private sector companies elected to implement a certification process for those companies that wanted it. Since then, SANSOR has developed a very efficient and effective self-regulation approach to seed certification, including the construction of a sophisticated web-based certification information collection and analysis system. SANSOR feels strongly that their own future is impacted by the capability and readiness of the seed sector on the continent, so they reached out to the Kenyan delegation through Agri Experience to extend an invitation to visit and learn.
The Kenya delegation of 9 included both public sector and private sector participants, coming from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), and Agri Experience- KMT’s implementing partner in the crop seed sector.
From February 15 – 19, the delegation travelled to South Africa where they learned about SANSOR’s crop seed certification work and the IT system behind the process, visited the national official seed lab, learned about the government’s extremely important but clearly limited role in seed certification, and attended a very innovative farmer field day hosted by a large local seed company. Most importantly, however, the public and private delegates had ample time to meet with each other to discuss Kenya’s own crop seed sector, potential changes which may benefit the sector, and how to get more high quality seed to Kenyan farmers.
The delegates have already set up a follow up meeting, for Kenya’s public and private sector participants to discuss how to move to greater self-regulation, and relieve government of the direct burden of paying for seed inspectors by outsourcing this work to qualified individuals. It is truly a dynamic and important time for Kenya’s crop seed sector as industry partners work together to make the sector more business friendly and cost-effective.

 

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Kenya delegation visits SANSOR office to see demonstration of software use in private sector-led seed certification process.

The thoughtful participation of all the delegates, and willingness to consider new approaches, was impressive and most encouraging as we work together to design a new regulatory environment.