Sowing the Seeds of Future Prosperity

Speeches Shim

Friday, March 19, 2021
Woman farmer tending to her plants
FTF Seed Trade Project

SADC Seed Companies Scale-up Production and Export Under the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory Systems

“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.”

Ask any farmer, and they’ll say this quote by B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine, is a truism – a way of life – not just a metaphor for how to live life.  Prosperity comes to those who literally plant seeds. But nowadays, with climate change, invasive pests, and plant diseases, not every seed is equal.  Through the Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project (Seed Trade Project), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is showing that a little upfront investment can be catalytic to long-term prosperity and food security.

Sowing the Seeds: Pilot Productions and Exports Substantiate Regional System

Beginning in 2018, the Seed Trade Project awarded Seed Co. Zambia Ltd. with a $100K grant to pilot production of high-quality maize seed under the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Harmonized Seed Regulatory System (HSRS). Seed companies who register their improved seed varieties on the SADC Seed Variety Catalogue and receive approval from the SADC Seed Centre can then proceed with production and export, following the guidelines, to any of the 16 SADC Member States.  

The Seed Co Zambia pilot production and export proved a tremendous success. By September 2019, Seed Co Zambia, with the help of the Zambia National Seed Authority started exporting to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The success of Seed Co.’s pilot export sparked interest from several other seed producers vying to break into the SADC market and resulted in the Seed Trade Project awarding three emerging seed companies with $100K grants each to Lake Agriculture of Zambia, Zimbabwe Super Seeds Cooperative Company (ZSS) of Zimbabwe, and Peacock Seeds of Malawi.  These additional pilots collectively produced high-quality seed which was exported to countries like a cyclone hit Mozambique. 

These pilot exports were the first-time improved varieties that crossed national borders bearing both the SADC seed labels and certificates, allowing the consignments to clear customs in minutes—not hours or days. The SADC seed labels and certificates have also proven useful in helping recipient countries quickly identify high-quality seed from fake or substandard seed. As Seed Co Zambia’s Country Manager for DRC and Angola, Mr. Stanley Malekani states, “The SADC seed labels are an advantage for border post clearances and assist in distinguishing genuine seed from fake seed in the DRC. It’s just one more benefit of producing seed under the SADC HSRS.” 

Future Prosperity: Scale-up Efforts in Progress

Of the four seed companies who participated in the pilot productions and exports, three returned to the Seed Trade Project to sign commitments for scale-up productions and exports under the SADC HSRS during the 2020/21 planting season. However, this time, they did so without additional grant funding—only technical support and guidance from the Seed Trade Project.

ZSS Managing Director Nelson Munyaka shares, “The respect the SADC HSRS gets in the region makes it an ideal production standard which we can use further. As Zimbabwe Super Seeds, we are going to continue using the SADC HSRS whenever we have orders going outside the country – it makes our life easier”. 

Each company is currently at different stages of production, with anticipated exports set between September – November 2021. 

The Farmer Who Faithfully Plants…

With new markets available to seed producers and increased profits, another benefit of producing and exporting high-quality seed under the SADC HSRS is the potential for much-needed forex to enter each exporting nation. Lastly, farmers across SADC are spoilt for choice, gaining increased access to improved seeds that will allow them to grow higher yield crops, further increasing both nutrition and food security for the region, as well as for their families.  

ZSS outgrower farmer Ms. Otilia Chimonero shares, “I have already received my payment for the seed which I delivered to ZSS.  As a family, we plan to build a three-roomed house and I’ll send my children to school through college level. I have gained a lot of knowledge growing seed with Zimbabwe Super Seeds, and I am willing to continue growing seed using the SADC standards.” 

About the Seed Trade Project

The Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project is funded by the USAID and provides targeted technical assistance to facilitate the implementation of the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System, which aims to boost seed trade across the region, integrating smaller and more isolated national seed markets into one broader SADC market. The Seed Trade Project is part of a regional policy effort to improve agricultural productivity, food security, and nutrition in the SADC region.


Last updated: March 19, 2021

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