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Abstract

Cereal grains are important staple foods in Africa but yields are still too low at 1.5 tons per ha for maize while compared with a global average of 4.5 tons per ha. This can be partly attributed to limited development of commercial seed markets, low use of improved seeds, small and highly fragmented seed markets. Many released varieties are not widely disseminated due to closed national markets dominated by a few international companies and parastatals, and restrictive laws, regulations and policies. Transactions costs within and across national boundaries are high because of differing arrangements across countries. Establishment of common regulatory structures is expected to reduce transactions costs and promote increased trade and hence use of improved seeds. This paper describes the process, results, experiences and lessons learned in developing and operationalizing a seed trade harmonization system in eastern and central Africa. It is clear that the public-private partnerships can play a pivotal role in catalyzing, facilitating and supporting the establishment, development and strengthening of national and regional seed trade. By building partnerships and wide participation, the project was able to apply lessons learned from older to newer countries. The technical, political and legislative processes in the policy-change-cycle are equally important and optimal outcomes must be based on trade-offs between technical issues and interests of the stakeholders.

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