Regional Seed Trade Empowers Farmers And Bolsters Food Security

Zimbabwe Super Seeds Successfully Produces and Exports Improved Seed Under Regional Guidelines.


Regional Seed Standards Become Reality for SADC Member States

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) continues to make progress toward regionalizing seed trade.  In partnership with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project, SADC Member States have pressed forward to align their national seed legislation with the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System (HSRS) (link is external), and in doing so, have created a unified regional standard for the production and export of high-quality seed. Further, the regional seed trade policy is making it easier for smaller, more isolated markets to gain access to improved seed, and creating a pathway for increased food security and large-scale private sector investments.  By establishing a regional set of standards for variety release, seed certification, and quality assurance, and quarantine and phytosanitary measures, SADC has reduced transaction costs, streamlined procedures encouraged private sector investment, and moved seed consignment seamlessly between SADC Member States. The more streamlined application process for registering improved seed on the SADC Seed Variety Catalogue (link is external), and all the benefits that come with approval, has also motivated seed companies to apply a wider range of seed varieties, from maize and sorghum to wheat and beans, helping diversify the types of crops produced and working to improve overall nutrition.  

Although discussions on seed harmonization within the SADC region date back to the late 1980s, momentum for reform picked up in 2005. Following extensive technical and policy consultations in member states, SADC Ministers of Agriculture approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the implementation of the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulations in February 2010, and two-thirds of the Member States ratified by June 2013 (link is external)

To harmonize national seed policies with the regionally agreed-upon guidelines, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project (Seed Trade Project), has furthered the process and moved to stress-test the system through two phases of pilot seed productions and exports. In phase one, Seed Co. Zambia Ltd. produced 226 MT of improved hybrid maize seed in Zambia following the SADC HSRS for export to the Democratic Republic of Congo in September 2019.  With the success of that pilot, the Seed Trade Project awarded three smaller seed companies to ensure accessibility: Lake Agriculture of Zambia (link is external), Zimbabwe Super Seeds of Zimbabwe, and Peacock Seeds of Malawi. 

“It is very difficult to find market if you are working as an individual, but the company can find a market for you.”– Otilia Chimonero, ZSS Outgrower farmer

ZSS Proves Any Seed Company Can Succeed Under Regional Guidelines

In November 2019, the Seed Trade Project awarded a grant to Zimbabwe Super Seeds Cooperative Company(link is external) (ZSS), to pilot the production of 200 MT of certified sugar bean seed variety, NUA 45, for export to seed deficit Mozambique. As a small seed producer, ZSS found it difficult to break into the broader regional seed market. Established in 2012 with 411 smallholder out-grower farmers, ZSS is a 100 percent farmer-owned enterprise, which focuses on increased access to seeds-of-choice for smallholder farmers. ZSS now boasts a network of 3,500 smallholder farmers that it can tap to produce seed consignments, both of local trade as well as export, helping to bolster the economic status of each farmer with guaranteed buyers as well as create a pathway for regional food security.  

With the financial and technical support of the Seed Trade Project, ZSS engaged 550 of their outgrower farmers (211 males and 339 females), who learned firsthand how to produce seed under the SADC HSRS. As Ms. Otilia Chimonero of Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province states “I have already received my payment for the seed which I delivered to ZSS. As a family, we plan to build a three-roomed house and send my children to school through college level.” She went on to say, “I have gained a lot of knowledge growing seed with Zimbabwe Super Seeds, and I am willing to continue growing seed using the SADC standards.” 

Another smallholder outgrower farmer, Ms. Fungai Masunda, grew five hectors of sugar bean seed for ZSS following the regional guidelines.  She states that she and her family have benefited both financially and nutritionally from the experience. “We gain nutritional value from NUA  45— it cooks quickly, and it tastes good.  We hear there is a lot of iron and zinc in the sugar bean, so we are happy to grow it.  And because of the prompt payment from ZSS, I have been able to buy a plow, pay school fees for my children, and provide for my family in other ways.  I’m encouraging other farmers to grow this seed for their families and the market—it gives you a lot of money.” 

ZSS worked closely with the Zimbabwe Seed Services Institute, the National Seed Authority of Zimbabwe, and the Seed Trade Project. With joint training from the Seed Trade Project and ZSS, company personnel and outgrowers gained valuable knowledge about the SADC HSRS guidelines as well as skills to improve their own economic status while producing high-quality seed for export to Mozambique. 

As of November 2020, ZSS has successfully produced 200 MT of sugar bean seed, which qualifies for export to the other SADC Member States under the SADC HSRS’ Seed Certification and Quality Assurance Guidelines. Of the 200 MT produced, 100 MT has gone to Mozambique to help circulate high-quality seed where the fake seed has been prevalent, as well as help in the country’s recovery from the 2019 Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. The remaining 100 MT will be sold on the local Zimbabwean market. 

USAID, ZFU and ZSTA Commission 200 MT of High-Quality Sugar Bean Seed

Speaking during the export commissioning event seed at Glamis Arena, Harare Showgrounds on November 5, ZSS Managing Director, Nelson Munyaka, shared his company’s experience producing seed under the SADC HSRS, stating in his remarks, “This is a very doable exercise from our side as Zimbabwe Super Seeds. Producing seed under the SADC HSRS makes it easy to discuss with other countries importing your product. The process becomes easier because our standards are the same.” 

He further shared that ZSS learned a great deal from the experiences of the Seed Co. Zambia, making the first production and export from Zimbabwe to another SADC nation under the regional guidelines a rather seamless process, including engagement with the Zimbabwe Seed Services Institute to acquire the SADC seed labels and certificates.  

He concluded, “As ZSS, we are going to continue using the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System whenever we have orders going outside the country, as it makes our life considerably easier.” 

In the company of USAID Agricultural and Food Security Officer Adam Silagyi and representatives from the Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association (ZSTA), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and many other seed stakeholders, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union Executive Director Mr. Paul Zakariya officially commissioned the full 200 MT of certified NUA 45 sugar bean.   

About the Seed Trade Project

The Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project is funded by the USAID Southern African Regional Office and provides targeted technical assistance to facilitate the implementation of the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System, which aims to boost seed trade across the region, integrating smaller and more isolated national seed markets into one broader SADC market. The Seed Trade Project is part of a regional policy effort to improve agricultural productivity, food security, and nutrition in the SADC region.

Get Involved

SADC Member States can align their national seed policies with the SADC HSRS.

Learn How

Seed producers can register improved seed varieties through a streamlined application process.

Learn More

Need market information? Discover which nations will have seed surpluses and deficits this season.

Learn More