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Towards an integrated market for seeds and fertilizers in West Africa

John Keyser's picture

Source - World Bank.West African countries have been working for many years to develop and implement harmonized trade rules for crop inputs. While much remains to be done, new regional regulations for seed and fertilizer are already helping to guide quality improvements in some countries. The West Africa Seed Committee is due to be launched next week in Abidjan thereby clearing the way for establishment of a regional variety catalog and seed certification system. Work to operationalize the regional rules for fertilizer also continues.

Despite these positive developments, most West African countries are a long way from having the required capacities and institutional structures needed to implement their own trade rules. The agreed regulations are modeled on advanced international standards, yet most national regulatory systems for crop inputs are greatly overstretched if they exist at all. As a result, it will likely be many more years before true harmonized regional trade can begin.

A new World Bank Group Africa Trade Working Paper looks at these challenges and shows that simple solutions including unilateral and joint action by small groups of countries should not be ruled out as a way to fast-track progress and support long-term harmonization.

Avoiding the “Harm” in Harmonized Standards for Food Staples in Africa

John Keyser's picture

Preparing vegetables taken from garden, Mongu, Zambia. Source - Felix Clay/DuckrabbitAfrica’s imports of staple foods could more than triple in the next 15 years. Without an increase in crop yields and an improvement in the trade of surplus food from areas with good growing conditions to deficit zones, importing sufficient amounts of staple food could cost the continent upwards of US$150 billion per year by 2030.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. As the World Bank showed in its 2012 report, Africa Can Help Feed Africa, the continent could easily deliver improved food security to its citizens through increased regional trade.

Often the nearest source of inputs or best outlet for farm products is a across a border, yet high costs and unpredictable rules make trade difficult and discourage investments by small farmers in raising productivity and large investments by private companies in input supply and food marketing.

Facilitating regional trade is therefore more important than ever for reducing poverty and meeting Africa’s growing demand for staple foods.

Travelling great distances to improve lives of rural Solomon Islands communities

Alison Ofotalau's picture
Map courtesy of Wikipedia through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Taking development to the outlying provinces of Solomon Islands is not an easy ride. I found this out when going on a site visit to the Rural Development Program (RDP) at the country’s far western province of Choiseul.

At the Northwest region of Choiseul province where the island faces open waters that span to the Micronesian archipelago of the Pacific lies a village called Polo. The Polo community has a primary school that was established in 1957 when Solomon Islands was still a British Protectorate, prior to independence in 1978. Since its inception, the Polo school never had a permanent classroom building until two years ago when through the RDP participatory process, the community identified the school as their main need.

Ethiopian woman farmer's message: 'Be on our side'

Tom Grubisich's picture

The future of Ethiopia’s drought-threatened agriculture is in the hands of the country’s resourceful women farmers, Development Marketplace 2009 winner Ehsan Dulloo says.

Dulloo calls the women Ethiopian agriculture's “primary seed custodians.”  They’re the ones who “have to confront significant uncertainty in the climate every year and regularly face food shortages as crops fail,” he says.  That’s why Dulloo and the Institute of Bioversity Conservation in Addis Ababa – where he is a scientist – developed the winning project Seeds for Needs.  (Participating farmer Bertukan Kebede is shown with daughter in photo from project workshop.)

Seeds for Needs aims to benefit 200 woman farmers who are running out of options on their subsistence plots in the increasingly dry highlands of eastern Ethiopia.  Through Seeds for Needs, the woman farmers will get access to new strains of seeds -- produced at gene banks -- that may prove more hardy than the traditional varieties of seeds the farmers have been using to overcome droughts that are more frequent and intense because of climate change.