Series 2.0: Empowering Local Food Systems through Quality Seeds.

So, it shouldn't go unnoticed that farmers draw seeds from both local and formal food systems and by strengthening both seed systems we are not only enabling access to safe, of- better quality seeds to farmers but also encouraging more investments in the agriculture space.

Focus need to shift on the development of an effective, farmer-centered seed strategy. We need to give farming households access to adequate quantities and of good quality seeds and planting materials at all times if we are to achieve Zero Hunger as per the Sustainable Development Goals.

A flexible seed system is crucial to addressing the challenge of access to quality seeds by small holder farmers. Seed production systems should encourage local seed systems in order to meet the seed needs of a wide spectrum of farmers.

In order to achieve positive agricultural transformation among countries, we need to strengthen formal seed systems- through more research and investments in finding seeds of good quality and quantity-  and also involve local seed systems in the transformation process- as it helps especially households practicing family farming in feeding themselves and their immediate communities.

In summary, we need to;

- Support local seed systems

Improving the local demand-oriented public breeding program will boost local food systems as well as increasing farmer's choices in terms of seed variety. Seeds used in local seed systems cannot be traced.  They are usually traced as seed -to- grain and not seed -to-seed. Partnerships between investors, NGOs and local farmers bring about varieties of seeds but after harvest not much is stored in the right conditions for seeds to be used in the next planting season.

By making commitments more coherent with farmer practices, and creating an enabling environment that strengthens multiple seeds systems we will increase farmers access to quality seeds.

- Support & strengthen Seed Companies for the provision of quality seeds

Small holder farmers in Sub Saharan Africa struggle to produce consistent supply of quality foundation seeds due to technical, infrastructural and financial challenges.

This inconsistent trend of producing quality foundation seeds deprives farmers and seed companies from the opportunity to benefit from improved varieties limiting seeds to being less tolerant to stress, pests and weather unpredictability.

However, there has been a number of investments by organizations in the agricultural space in research and development, and with focus on improving different varieties of seeds to ensure that quality and varied seeds are released into the current food systems.

-Support market oriented, pluralistic and dynamic seed sector

We need to focus our effort in supporting seed entrepreneurship that responds to the demands by farmers, agro-dealers, service providers and others in there's value chain. This way we will be able to provide small holder farmers access to quality seeds of superior varieties.

- Diversity

Most sub Saharan African countries need break the norm when it comes to feeding its people sustainably. The usual seed system focuses on a narrow band of crops(staples)and less attention is paid to tuber crops, grain legumes and horticultural crops. If we are to achieve zero hunger by 2030, we need to give farmers a new approach to farming thus diversify our farming for a wide range of produce.  Farmers can help achieve a food secure continent only if they get good seed varieties based on their resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance, soil types and regions.

- Loosen the bottlenecks

Governments need to recognize the informal sector as an important low-cost source of quality seed, and be used as a means for providing resources farmers need at affordable prices. They can support this system by enabling extension advice on seed production, breeding, treatment and storage; and supporting legal framework that permit the marketing of unverified but truthfully labelled seeds that conform to the prescribed standards except that it wouldn't have an official certification tag.

-Knowledge, knowledge

About Seed Storage; not all seeds should be stored, FAO suggests only those that only those that are self-pollinated and open pollinated, not hybrids. They should be dried to the prescribed moisture content, 13% or below for cereals, 10% or below for legumes, 8% or below for vegetables. Should also be stored in clean and well ventilated storage area and treated to avoid insect/pest attack accompanied with periodic inspection of the stored area.

Oh and lastly, have you come across an extension officer before?  Yes, they are government officials who have been tasked with matters agriculture in our localities and are trained by governments to give agricultural advice and notify us of the set policies.

Farmers need to work hand in hand with extension officers as they are involved directly or indirectly with seed breeding and monitoring and dissemination based on the specie and variety. Farmers need to be informed of effects of their usual practices to produce yield and why it's important to adopt new trends unlike the outdated and old-fashioned way they have been practicing seed acquisition. This will help seeds of higher quality and better produce yield to circulate in the farms.

Parting shot

Every seed system should provide farmers with access to good quality seed at affordable prices. Seed industry needs to be deregulated with both systems being able to provide seeds to consumers; of course in a structured approach to avoid farmer manipulation by cartels and circulation of poor quality seeds. We need to shift our focus to a wide range of produce to enable