Thursday, March 12, 2015

African Seed Access Index Launched

The first ever African seed index of four countries, found to be most moving away from state-run monopolies has been launched in Nairobi, Kenya, 12.03.2015, to encourage smallholder farmers to be served better.

A Press Release from TASAI says a new analysis of African efforts to put more productive crop varieties into the hands of smallholder farmers finds progress but also significant challenges in a region still shaking off decades of complacent government seed monopolies.

The African Seed Access Index (TASAI)—the first ever initiative dedicated solely to monitoring the state of Africa’s rapidly evolving seed sector—issued detailed scorecards on seed development and distribution in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with a focus on increasing choices for smallholder farmers.

“We’ve known for a long time that a key reason yields on African farms lag far behind even those in other developing countries is that African farmers often lack access to improved varieties of staple crops such as maize, cowpea and sorghum,” said Ed Mabaya, assistant director of Cornell University’s International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) and head of the TASAI project.

“We think that by tracking indicators along the seed delivery chain—like the number of crop breeders, varieties released, industry competitiveness, availability of seed in small packages, and quality of the seed policy framework—investors and policymakers can target choke points that are impeding the flow of seeds to smallholder farmers.”

For example, TASAI’s analysis rates Kenya as poor in a key measure of industry competiveness: government-controlled companies still account for the lion’s share of seed sales, which can discourage new start-ups from entering the market.

But South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe were rated excellent in this category as their governments have largely gotten out of the seed business. In South Africa, seed production appears to be thriving, but it scores poorly when it comes to making seeds accessible to smallholder farmers. Overall, Uganda’s seed sector is noted to be growing, but potentially burdened with weak seed policies and regulations. And Zimbabwe’s once vital seed sector is showing signs of decline.

“In Uganda, there is strong demand from farmers for our seeds, but we still face constraints that limit how much seed we can sell,” said Ms. Josephine Okot, CEO of Kampala-based Victoria Seeds Ltd. “We need access to more and better quality foundation seed developed by government-funded crop breeding programs and less stringent trade policies that would make it easier to import and export seeds.”

TASAI was developed by CIIFAD in collaboration with Market Matters Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to small- and medium-size enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa, among them a growing number of African-owned seed businesses.

Mabaya said TASAI was inspired by the fact that money—from governments, private sector players and donors—is swiftly flowing to agriculture projects across Africa, but information available to guide investments is often anecdotal.

“There are enormous opportunities to develop sustainable seed production capacity in Africa,” he said. “But investments—whether in the form of private capital or development aid—are often constrained by a poor understanding of what each country needs.”

TASAI seeks to fill that void by systematically tracking 16 indicators across five categories that assess the vibrancy and competitiveness of the national seed sector by measuring the health of such things as research and development, service to smallholder farmers and industry competitiveness.

(See table for complete list of indicators and their effect on seed access.)

TASAI INDICATORS Positive or Negative Impact on Seed Access*

Positive effect (+) means that the higher the indicator, the higher the grade on seed access.
Negative effect (-) means that the higher the indicator, the lower the grade on seed access.

1 Number of active breeders +
2 Varieties released in last 3 years +
3 Availability of foundation seed +
4 Number of active crop seed companies +
5 Time it takes to import seed from neighboring countries -
6 Market share of top 1,2,3,4 companies -
7 Market share of current or past government parastatal -
8 Concentration of rural agro-dealer network +
9 Availability of seed in small packages +
10 Length of variety release process -
11 Quality of seed policy framework +
12 Quality of regulatory and enforcement system +
13 Adequacy of seed inspectors +
14 Efforts to stamp out fake seed +
15 Availability of extension services for smallholder farmers +
16 Quality of national seed trade association +

Uneven Progress as Countries Confront Myriad Challenges

TASAI assessments released today focus on seed sectors in four pilot countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They reveal uneven—though in many places promising—progress towards competitive seed sectors that can supply famers with a wider menu of seed options.

For example, Kenya gets relatively good marks for its seed policies but scores poorly on efforts to purge fake seeds from the market, a problem that is unfortunately growing in many countries. South Africa gets strong marks for having a competitive seed sector and for shepherding new varieties from breeders to farmers relatively quickly. It takes an average of 12 months to release a new variety in South Africa, compared to three years in Kenya and Uganda, and almost two years in Zimbabwe.

But while South Africa stands out for having developed a large, mature and diverse commercial seed sector, it scores poorly compared to the other countries when it comes to making seeds available to farmers in small packages (less than five kilos).

Kenyan seed companies, on the other hand, “outshine all other countries” in this category, according to TASAI’s analysis. Agriculture experts say that’s important because in Kenya, as in most other countries in the region, smallholder farmers account for the majority of crop production, and they want seeds in relatively small packages.

“It’s crucial that smallholder farmers in Africa have access to a wide range of crop varieties, because small farms are the mainstay of food production in the region,” said Joe Devries, the director of the Program for African Seed Systems at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

“Seeds may not be a cure-all, but without a healthy seed sector, it’s hard to see how African farmers can satisfy the food demands of a population growing faster than any on earth and adapt to the effects of climate change that are rapidly altering farming conditions.”

When it comes to the sheer number of crop varieties released, the data offer a clear indication that South Africa’s seed sector is, in most respects, far more advanced than others in the region. For example, over the last three years, South Africa released 221 varieties of maize, while Kenya released 35, Uganda 12, and Zimbabwe 28.

South Africa and Uganda get high marks for the quality of the national seed trade association—a critical link between the governments and private sector companies—while in Zimbabwe and Kenya, companies rate their association as only fair, indicating a potential need to intensify advocacy and support efforts.

TASAI’s analysis currently is focused on the four most important crops in each country in terms of area planted. Maize is the most widely cultivated crop in all four countries, but the overall mix varied. Kenya’s other top crops are sorghum, beans and cowpeas; in South Africa, it’s soybean, sunflower and wheat; in Uganda, beans, millet and sorghum; and in Zimbabwe, rounding out their top four are cotton, soybean and sorghum.

TASAI scorecards are based on extensive research in each country by local experts and will be updated annually. Mabaya said TASAI is preparing to release assessments of seed sector performance in four additional countries that should be available by mid-2015. He hopes that within two years, the database will include reports on more than 20 countries.

“Our goal is a simple, transparent, accurate and up-to-date index that keeps a running scorecard on seed sector development in Africa, particularly as governments and development agencies are placing bigger bets on agriculture to be the engine that pulls Africans out of poverty,” Mabaya said.

The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) is a collaborative initiative between Market Matters Inc., Cornell International Institute for Food and Agricultural Development and the Emerging Markets Program. Through this partnership, TASAI brings together research expertise from Cornell University with hands-on private sector development work from Market Matters Inc. More at

Friday, March 6, 2015

Uganda to Fight Moral Decadence Among Women

By Esther Nakkazi

The Uganda government has a package for women on Women's Day; all those found in the act of prostitution and pornography will be arrested.

In a press conference held today in Kampala, Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, the minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, said the Uganda government has made strides in efforts to curb this 'evil'.

Prostitution is defined as the practice of engaging in sexual relations in exchange for payment or some other benefit. It is sometimes described as commercial sex. People who are engaged in this field are called prostitutes.

The Uganda’s Penal Code Act 1950 (138 & 139) defines a “prostitute” as a person who, in public or elsewhere, regularly or habitually holds himself or herself out as available for sexual intercourse or other sexual gratification for monetary or other material gain, and “prostitution” shall be construed accordingly.

Prostitution has also been a key topic in the Uganda parliament. For instance it was discussed by the 7th parliament as a controversial matter and prostitutes were referred to as sex workers. However, it was agreed that there is no such term as “sex work” under Uganda's law. 

Fr. Lokodo says this clearly means that prostitution is not considered as work in Uganda. They have also observed that this practice is not only limited to the streets but can also be observed in bars and restaurants and private contacts are accessible. 

So in an effort to curb prostitution, legislation and policies have been formulated under the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity, which include the National Ethical Values Policy, which responds to escalating moral decadence in Uganda exhibited in a number of activities and practices such as Prostitution, pornography, defilement and rape

Fr. Lokodo says to operationalize the above policy, the following laws have been enacted. The Penal Code Act, which deals with criminal law. It provides under 139 that any person who practice or engages in prostitution commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

The Anti-Pornography Act, 2014, which defines and creates the offence of pornography; to provide for the prohibition of pornography; to establish the Pornography Control Committee and prescribe its functions; and for other related matters.

"It is on the premise of the above laws that the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity working closely with the Police has undertaken measures to bring to book persons found in the act of pornography and prostitution," said Fr. Lokodo.

The latest incidence is the arrest of men and women in a Brothel in Bakuli, a Kampala Surburb yesterday Thursday 5th March 2015. The culprits are under custody at the Central Police Station Kampala for further interrogation and charge by the Police and other responsible institutions.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Uganda Exporting Health Workers to Trinidad and Tobago in UN Context

By Esther Nakkazi

The Uganda government has defended its move to 'export' 263 health workers saying it is part of the bilateral arrangement under the south-south Cooperation and within the context of the G7 and the United Nations, also known as the Technical Cooperation for Developing Countries (TCDC).

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago are undertaking the exercise of recruitment for employment of medical workers from Uganda with the objective to establish a framework for the development of scientific, technical and economic cooperation.

"Therefore, both countries undertake to “Increase the exchange of knowledge, information, experiences and achievements in the priority fields of cooperation”, says a statement from the government.

A non-government organisation, the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) sued the government of Uganda for 'brain drain' by exporting so many health workers yet the doctor to patient ratio is so low 1:24,725.

Donors like Belgium are withholding 11 million Euro in aid money for Uganda's health sector over its plan to export these health workers. More donors might be planning to take action.

In a press conference held today at the Media Centre, the government has said 'exporting the health workers is in their mandate to “Promote and Protect Uganda’s interest Abroad". As such their mandate requires that the Uganda embassies abroad source for employment to allow for transfer skills, technology and foreign exchange earnings amongst other benefits.

Currently, Uganda is recruiting for employment 263 health professionals to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The MOU between the two governments allows for 2 year contracts, subsequently allowing more Ugandans to take advantage of the opportunities.

Available data indicates that there were 59,000 registered health professionals in the country for all categories by end of 2014. In total, there were 57,050 approved vacant posts in government structure, of which 35,903 were filled, leaving 21,152 posts (UBOS Statistical Abstract 2014). The reason for not filling these vacancies varied including; budgetary constraints.

From the above figures, it implies that 63% of the health professionals are employed in the public sector, while 37% is either employed in the private sector, unemployed or left the country for greener pastures. Therefore, the absorptive capacity of the public service is limited, and this is the gap that the framework is trying to bridge, says a press release from the government of Uganda.

Further, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council records 2014 indicate that, in the last 10 years, over 55 health training institutions have opened across the country. These are Government, faith based and the Private Sector institutions. This implies that graduate output levels of health workers has steadily increased, leading to high numbers of health workers in the job market, which cannot be solely absorbed by government and the private sector.