A working Seed System Development Strategy was released in September 2016 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR) through the facilitation of the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). Various federal, regional and international stakeholders from the public, private and NGOs sectors were integral to the development of the strategy, which will be in effect during the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) period, and may be revised subsequently as necessary.

This national strategy intends to guide domestic and international partners in targeting their investments and efforts towards addressing systemic bottlenecks with the objective of bringing about holistic transformation, rather carrying out than piece-meal activities within the seed system. The government has identified attracting investment and developing a vibrant and competitive seed sector, as well as strengthening the regulatory capacity and the structural and legal frameworks to meet international standards as primary approaches to resolve seed system bottlenecks in GTP II.

The seed system refers to the full set of activities and stakeholders involved in effectively developing, producing and distributing seed to smallholder farmers. Formal seed production, which provides seed to farmers through an institutionalized network of public and private institutions, covers only 6% of the country’s total land area. Like many developing nations, the Ethiopian seed system is dominated by the informal sector, in which farmers produce and exchange their own seeds, along with an emerging intermediate sector consisting of community-based seed producers. Moreover, the current average annual national seed supply of improved varieties for most food crops covers less than 10% of the total agricultural land area, as compared to 25% in many other African nations.

On the other hand, investing in the dissemination and use of improved seeds has been shown to increase crop yields and improve farmers’ livelihoods. A number of Asian countries have increased their crop productivity and ensured food security by boosting adoption of high-yielding varieties. As such, ensuring the availability of improved seeds at the right quality, quantity, time, and price can enhance the effectiveness of the seed system and catalyze agricultural transformation overall.

Consequently, the strategy identifies over 30 systemic bottlenecks and their corresponding interventions throughout the areas of seed production, marketing and distribution, pertaining to the formal, informal and intermediate sectors. Major bottlenecks include a lack of seed producers’ internal quality control capacity; farmers’ limitations in producing sufficient seeds of preferred varieties; and the absence of adequate and sustainable markets for community-based seed production. Addressing these and other challenges will improve the performance of the seed sub-sector and positively impact the agriculture sector overall.

The strategy was developed subsequent to formulating a vision for the seed sector by the ATA and MoANR; undertaking qualitative and quantitative analysis to understand current issues and constraints; designing strategic interventions to address bottlenecks; and conducting a series of workshops to translate the interventions into tangible work plans and actions. The document is the first of its kind to outline a vision, systemic challenges and prioritized interventions for the seed system, and is expected to boost crop production and productivity by enabling proper management of the seed system.