Friday, January 30, 2015

IRRI expert talks about moving seed systems forward

Last January 29 at the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) science week, Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, principal scientist and coordinator of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, explained how important it was to facilitate seed systems, especially when it comes to multiplying and disseminating seeds—considered a prime product of the Institute—more widely for impact.

He said IRRI needs to engage in the seed business because it strengthens trust with partners and can be an entry point for influencing policies across the seed chain or value chain. It can also generate additional resources from national programs or donors, can engage public-private partnerships, and ensure fast delivery or impact, among others.

To facilitate the development of these seed systems, he explained that proper seed partners in the value chain must be aligned in order to facilitate multiplication and dissemination of the seeds. The capacity of the public and private sector partners should also be strengthened and strategic dialogues must be made to ensure enabling policies. Programs on awareness should also be launched to speed up seed uptake, and additional financial resources must be mobilized.

He emphasized in the latter that to ensure ownership of national programs, project objectives must be aligned with a country's priorities and that linkages must be made with national schemes or initiatives for similar goals. The same case can also apply to international initiatives. Networking with diverse partners along the seed chain from production to farmers is also another option. STRASA currently has 570 partners in this regard.

Since much interest has also come from the private sector in the production and marketing of seeds of inbred stress-tolerant rice varieties, this is also another option that can be considered. Currently, STRASA has involved about 350 small and medium private seed producers and over 15 large public and private seed companies and corporations.

In terms of regional collaboration, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and IRRI signed two separate agreements on 2013 and 2014, respectively, where they agreed to jointly share evaluation and release of new rice varieties. Such policy breakthroughs are important, explained Dr. Ismail, since they not only help to fast-track the dissemination of seeds, but also allow IRRI to share costs or resources.
Dr. Joel Janiya, an expert in the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE), explained on the one hand that the primary driving force behind the development of seed systems or the uptake of seeds at the community level are women. In fact, women have been playing an increasingly important role in almost all facets of rice farming.

According to him, the way forward for community seeds and women are to continually identify gender-sensitive technologies and to develop a system for assessing farm-level effects on the use of technologies, risk reduction, productivity gains, and value addition. Up-scaling and out-scaling strategies should also be linked with local, regional, or national programs in the same way that technical information services can be linked with non-government organizations, the private sector, and other delivery mechanisms that benefit both men and women.

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