The need for policy and institutional support to develop an integrated seed system that really serves African smallholders is explained. Mekelle University (MU) is the key implementing partner for the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) programme in the Tigray region, Ethiopia, where farmers rely heavily on the traditional seed system. MU works with farmers, consumers, other public institutions and private companies to develop interventions using seeds of local crops as opposed to the varieties (e.g. hybrid maize) that are favoured by commercial enterprises involved in the formal seed sector.
In recent years, public-private partnerships have been promoted as a model for attracting investments, optimising resources, improving efficiency and enhancing delivery and impact of interventions aimed at improving the performance of the agricultural sector, especially in developing countries. The Eastern Africa Seed Committee (EASCOM) exemplifies a public-private partnership that evolved to address the gaps in policy and practice regarding production and trade in seed across 11 countries in eastern and central Africa. This article discusses how EASCOM was formed, its mandate, operational mechanisms and achievements, and reviews how EASCOM prioritised the agenda for seed policy harmonisation and the factors and resources that were harnessed to generate successful outcomes.