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The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) in partnership with FoodTrade East & Southern Africa (ESA) programme last week launched national seed laws that have been aligned to the COMESA Seed Policies. 

The launch took place in Nairobi, Kenya where national Seed Review teams from seven COMESA member states participated. They comprised Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The teams also participated in a three-day meeting that discussed strategies to improve the movement of seeds across the region.


The aim of harmonizing country seed laws and regulations under the COMESA Seed Harmonization Implementation Programme (COMSHIP) is to bring about consistent domestication, application, monitoring and improvement in seed certification, quarantine and phytosanitary measures. This in addition to the evaluation and release of seed varieties among COMESA member countries. It will also give smallholder farmers in the region better access to quality inputs and related technologies.  

Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Agriculture Mr. Richard Lesiyampe officiated over the launch on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary Mr. Willy Bett. He described the launch as a historic opportunity to collectively reflect on how best to plan and avoid or mitigate risks that face the agriculture sector in the region.

“I am happy to note that all the country processes have been home-grown and sensitive to country situations while keeping the broader objective of attaining the harmonized regulations in focus,” Mr. Lesiyampe noted. “This deliberate inclusivity in the process has led to harmonized regulations that are widely acceptable to seed industry stakeholders.”

Historically, the regulatory environment surrounding seed production and certification has made it costly to do business in this sector, discouraging private sector companies from investing in innovation and expanded production.

UK Aid, through the FoodTrade ESA programme, has provided targeted grants to a number of organizations implementing projects that are bridging gaps within the sector. The grant provided to the ACTESA has helped to support the domestication of harmonized seed trade regulations across East and Southern Africa. 

“The focus of the FoodTrade ESA programme is improving the quality and quantity of staple foods that our farmers produce and to ensure that they benefit from trading surpluses across the region. Our work with ACTESA has laid a very important foundation to promote coherence in the production and trade of seed across East and Southern Africa. 

“By working to ensure that national level seed laws are aligned with regional policies, private sector firms will be willing to increase investments in commercial seeds for export, making better seeds and inputs readily available to farmers across Africa,” explained Steve Orr, Team Leader of the FoodTrade ESA programme. 

The project “Domestication of harmonized seed trade regulations within COMESA and the EAC” has been implemented by FoodTrade ESA in partnership with ACTESA since January 2015. Activities have focused on supporting national teams to embed harmonized seed regulations, promoting awareness of the COMESA seed trade harmonization regulations, and providing capacity building in production to smallholder farmers. 

ACTESA, with the support of FoodTrade ESA, facilitated domestication of harmonized seed trade policies and regulations in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. The three countries joined Burundi and Rwanda which completed the review and gazettement of their seed trade policies and can now fully participate in the production, certification, registration and trade of improved seed varieties across the region. 

The project is also supporting similar processes in Zambia and Malawi. 

“Now that the five countries have gazetted the laws, the work starts,” ACTESA Chief Finance Officer Mrs. Gizila Takavarasha urged the delegates.