Kenya has started digitisation of its seed system in a bid to provide farmers with quality inputs by weeding out fakes.
The country becomes the third in Africa after Zambia and South Africa, to shift from the manual system to a digital platform have such a platform
The new development will see the government automate the seed certification and Plant variety Protection System. This comes as a huge boost to farmers who have been contending with high cases of fake seeds in the market.
The current manual registration and licensing processes have also been associated with delays, documentation errors, inefficiencies and longer processing time, hence need for technology to correct these anomalies.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) acting managing director Simeon Kibet says Kenya has been operating on manual platform since the inception of the agency in 1997 but the parastatal has in the last two years been developing the system that is now being piloted.
“Seed system in developed countries have been automated and Kenya is now joining South Africa and Zambia by automating our seed certification processes,” said Mr Kibet.
“The Kenya Seed Company (KSC) in Kitale and Bubayi Limited are running the pilot programme with KSC specialising in all kinds of seed crops while Bubayi focuses on beans with the automation largely based on lessons learned from the two African countries.”
The process of seed certification is divided into three parts- variety description which results in development of the variety descriptors, field inspections which ascertains the trueness to type of the crop variety, and Seed testing which guarantees the seed purity and germination that it has to must meet for it to be released to the market.
“The new system will have enormous benefits such as faster registration of seed crops and lead to ease of registering crop varieties for distinctness, uniformity and Stability,” the MD said.
Mr Kibet said the system will make it easier to release results of crop varieties by breeders, seed testing results transmission to processing companies and also help to improve transparency and efficient methods of payment by mobile money transfer for service rendered.
Other advantages include easing the process of requesting for services such as labelling, making of orders, sampling and re-sampling of seed.
“From May 2020 to April 2021, growers and seed crops are being registered online, inspections of seed too will be requested digitally and data captured in real time to be processed automatically through the system that will be accessible to merchants online,” said Mr Kibet.
Quality Assurance General Manager at Kephis, Simon Maina said good progress has been made towards the registration of crops and that by November this year they expect to conduct National Performance Trials for distinctness, uniformity and stability.
“Training for staff and stakeholders is ongoing, thought it has been interrupted by Covid-19. Kephis and Trade Mark East Africa ( TMEA ) have engaged stakeholders in Nairobi, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kwale, Nakuru, Kisumu, Tana River and Baringo,” said Mr Maina.
The agency said automation will create efficiency in the seed certification process by reducing time spent by inspectors feeding data in the computer databases and writing reports.
“Seed companies will be able to track in real time the progress of certification of their seeds and the system will therefore save clients time and money they would have used to travel to the nearest Kephis office to apply for licenses,” it said.
The automation is financed by Trade Mark East Africa and the system is expected to be officially launched next year.