Closer collaboration among all key stakeholders is critical to assure the continent of security in terms of seed, food and nutrition, Denias Zaranyika, the new president of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), has said. This, Mr Zaranyika said, was achievable if the seed industry and all other stakeholders aligned their priorities and played their part with the right focus.Mr Zaranyika, who is also Seed Co Zimbabwe’s managing director, said the focus was in line with the declaration and commitment made by African leaders made at a meeting of the Heads of State and Government of African Union Member States in 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to end hunger in Africa by 2025 under the Framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme.
Mr Zaranyika was elected president of AFSTA, a body formed in 2000 to look into various issues impacting the seed industry in Africa, during the 2016 AFSTA annual congress held in Nairobi, Kenya last week, attended by more than 400 delegates.
Mr Zaranyika, who had been vice president of the organisation for the past two years, is deputised by Riadh Gabsi of Tunisia. He took over from Nicholas Goble of South Africa who stepped down after serving his constitutional two-year tenure.
The congress offered a solid framework for exchange between the major players of the African private seed sector. It also discussed current issues affecting seed production and trade in Africa which included climate change, the impact of dwindling fortunes of pollination on seed production and seed harmonisation regulations in Africa.
It (the congress) was opened by Kenya’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Willy Bett, who vouched for self-regulation among seed traders.
He said the greatest potential in seed production still lay in Africa and it was high time this was realised and taken advantage of in order to uplift the standards of the people of the continent.
Mr Bett urged national seed trade associations to be bold enough to continuously dialogue with their respective ministers for the development of the seed sector in Africa; and said time had come for seed companies to engage more with their respective governments to ensure that all factors affecting the sector were addressed in the shortest possible time.
Prior to his elevation, Mr Zaranyika had served on the board of AFSTA for the past seven years – the last two years as vice president. Apart from being a board member, and latterly vice president, he was also the chairperson of the Communication and Advocacy Committee where he used his position to influence Zimbabwe’s bid to host the successful 2015 congress. Other past presidents of the association include Jitu Shah from Kenya (2012 to 2013); Enock Chikava, Malawi (2011-2012); Marcel Kanungwe, Zambia (2008-2009); Mark Sachs, South Africa (2006-2007); RaoufGhariani, Tunisia (2004-2005); Guy BlaiseSatsa, Cameroon (2002-2003); and Dr Nathaniel Tum, Kenya (2000-2001).
Mr Zaranyika’s elevation has been hailed by the chairman of the Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association, Walter Chigodora, who said his election highlighted the “good and productive work” that he was doing and for being the first Zimbabwean to hold such an important position.
The secretariat of the association is in Nairobi, Kenya, where it has full diplomatic status. It is also recognised by other intergovernmental organisations such as the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC); as well as other international seed bodies such as the International Seed Federation (ISF), the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).
Currently, AFSTA membership is drawn from local, regional, continental and international organisations.
Some of the countries included in its membership include Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Mali, Tunisia, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Germany, United States of America, Netherlands, France, India, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Sudan, Mozambique, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya and China.
Mr Zaranyika promised to lead the seeds organisation “with the utmost transparency and boldness to face the myriad of challenges currently facing
the continent’s agricultural sector”.
He outlined some of the issues that face the continent as climate change mitigation with respect to the development of early maturing and water use efficiency; food security; improving farmer yields; growth of seed trade regionally, continentally and inter-continentally; development of disease tolerant and resistant cultivars; regional co-operation; and strengthening of seed associations.
The 2017 AFSTA congress will be held in Dakar, Senegal from 28 February to 2 March. Cairo, Egypt, will host the 2018 congress.