By Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila*
The expansion of the corporate seed market, embedded in the green revolution agenda in sub-Saharan Africa is progressing very fast. This expansion is going hand in hand with regional policies and regulations – in a process also known as seed harmonisation – that will enable facilitate trade across national borders. This has been the case in Southern and Eastern Africa in the last two and a half decades within three overlapping regions-SADC, COMESA and the EAC. These harmonised seed regulations focus solely on the formal seed sector, both neglecting and prohibiting the historical and current role played by farmer-managed seed systems, which indisputably provide the majority of seed used in food production across the continent. The harmonisation efforts attempt to shortcircuit lengthy and costly variety testing and release processes that take place at the national level. Proponents of the seed regulations argue that this will facilitate greater availability of seed and will increase smallholder farmers’ access to improved seed.
It is questionable though, whether the formal seed systems which favour large-scale seed corporations will be able to meet African farmers’ requirement on access to good quality seed in sufficient time.