Mr. Geoffrey Kirenga is the CEO SAGCOT Centre Limited. He has a wealth of experience in East African agriculture value chains. Mr Mwakasaka Ipyana spoke with him about food systems transformation, seeds and AGRA support to the agricultural sector, including his views on AGRA impact. The following are excerpts of the interview:
Tanzania is currently undergoing a significant food systems transformation. To ensure all the changes occurring, the livelihood for smallholder farmers continues to improve; accessibility of improved seeds is one of the essential factors. Seeds are the key to improving agricultural productivity, food security, and poverty reduction.
Tanzania has come a long way in formulating policy and reforms for the greater good in the seed sub-sector. Since independence, the goal of all the initiatives has been to ensure the availability of quality seeds. The food sufficiency the nation has enjoyed for over a decade could not have been possible without reliable access to quality and affordable seeds.
In the last decade and a half, Tanzania has introduced various policy and legal reforms in the seed sub-sector to ensure the availability of improved seeds to farmers at affordable prices. There have been remarkable achievements. However, some challenges remain.
*AGRA instrumental in improving seed sector business environment
AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) has been a dependable partner working with the Government, the private sector, and non-state actors to make Tanzania’s seed sub-sector self-sustainable for the good of smallholder farmers, who are the majority in our nation. Working with government-owned research institutions such as TARI and Universities such as SUA, AGRA has played a crucial role in developing home-grown breeder seeds (over 30varieties), pivotal in sustainable food security.
The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania -SAGCOT and partners have been privileged for years to partner with AGRA in the quest to contribute towards inclusive agriculture transformation in Tanzania . One of our collaborations in the seed sector is supporting the local government authorities (LGAs) to put in place improved policies and regulations governing the seed sector. The three-year project sought to strengthen several critical elements of the country’s seed system, which limits the supply of quality improved seeds to Tanzania’s smallholder farmers. The implementation of the project has played a part in accelerating the development of robust and sustainable seed systems. USAID financed the initiative, titled Tanzania Seed Policy Project.
The project sought to address inadequate harmonisation of reforms and improper enforcement of the bylaws at LGA levels. It makes the gap between policy reform and implementation an uphill task. For instance, the Government abolished the cess charged on seeds on transit in July 2017. The reform was supposed to eliminate charging of crop cess on moving from one LGA to another. Moreover, in 2017, the Government waived 108 levies, taxes, and fees in the agriculture sector in a bid to lessen the burden of taxes imposed on agricultural produce, including seeds.
The Government carried out this reform to enable farmers to access seeds at affordable prices. However, the reforms were not implemented fully, leaving the seed agribusinesses impacted by taxes and fees, especially at the sub-national levels. The implementation of the policy project involved policy dialogues to discuss the regulatory procedural challenges within the seed sector. Different actors including high governmental officials from the agricultural sector lead ministries, and stakeholders in the seed sub-sector institutions. They include Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI), Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari), Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA) and Tanzania Seed Trade Association (TASTA), participated. The dialogues at the national level were followed by dialogues at LGA levels which were attended by representatives from local government authorities, seed companies, seed traders and seed stakeholders and created awareness about existing seed policies and regulations. Awareness was vital for the purpose of enhancing implementation and compliance.
We have now seen early outcomes from this initiative which include the establishment of twenty (20) seed multi-stakeholder platforms in LGAs from potential seed production regions. The platforms brings in actors in the seed value chain to discuss challenges that hinder investment in seed sector and champion policy issues that need attention from the government
It is also worth recognising a record performance in the development thirteen (13) standards to regulate non – true seed (especially fruit crop seedlings) which were approved recently by the Ministry of Agriculture (Hon Hussein Bashe). The standards will allow production and maintenance of seed quality and ensure farmers get positive returns on their farming investments.
Building on AGRA intervention to enhance sustainability
In implementing advocacy projects AGRA works using the public-private partnership approach. We had a wide composition of stakeholders that included government institutions, private sector companies and the non-state actors and in particular SAGCOT. All the stakeholders are vital in providing project sustainability. The Seed Multi Stakeholder Platforms will continue to function keeping at tab on seed trading at sub-national and national levels beyond project lifetime. The structure left on the ground through this initiative will facilitate continued engagement with policy and decision-makers with a view of developing new opportunities and continuing improving the business environment for agro-businesses in Tanzania.
AGRA made a strategic choice to support Tanzania’s agricultural transformation agenda using and leveraging assets and know-how in technologies, partnerships, markets, agri-finance, and delivery models that if scaled could lead to a competitive and inclusive agricultural transformation. SAGCOT has been working with AGRA and the government of Tanzania and the private sector to mobilize private sector partners and de-risk their investment in agriculture systems that are required for a vibrant agriculture transformation.
On the other hand, working with other stakeholders in partnering with working with the government to create a sustainable enabling business environment often requires a substantial amount of time to be realised. Often, the lifetime of AGRA initiatives is short of the duration needed to realise the intended benefits. Most of the achievements we have realised in Tanzania have benefited significantly from working with SAGCOT because of the continuation provided through this organisation.
*Mr. Geoffrey Kirenga is the CEO of SAGCOT Centre Limited. He has a wealth of experience in East African agriculture value chains.