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Seed Development Programme  

I. Basic Project Data

Project Numbers:MAU/92/CO5
Project Title:Seed Development Programme (SDP)
Type of Evaluation:Final
Government Executing Agency:Ministry of Rural Development and Environment
UN Cooperating Agency:UNOPS
Sub-Sector:Research and Development
UNCDF Budget:$US 3,960,516
UNDP Budget:3,091,125
Gov't. Budget:1,219,000
Total Project Budget:<$US 8,270,641
Date Project Approved:July 1992
Date Project Began:November 1992
Date of Evaluation:December 1998

II. Background

One of the major concerns of the Government of Mauritania is to increase the food self-sufficiency of the population. The most important priorities are to produce high-quality seed within the country, to enhance the quality and quantity of agricultural output and to reduce outlays in foreign exchange for the importation of seeds.

The UNCDF seed development programme evaluated here addresses these concerns, as well as the government's antipoverty policy. Indeed one of the priority aims of this policy is food self-sufficiency, since access by farmers to high-yield, appropriate seed is considered essential to an increase in agricultural output.

III. The Project

Although the project was nationwide in scope, it covered primarily the eastern and southern parts of the country, where agriculture is concentrated. The strategy was adapted to the two kinds of agriculture that exist in these regions:

• For rain-fed crops and river recessional agriculture, emphasis was placed on food security, namely supervision of the existing grain banks and the creation of new banks, supplemented by the establishment of stocks of high-quality seed in the village storehouses.

• For irrigated crops along the Senegal River, the objective was to establish a network for producing certified seed relying on the private sector.

The mid-term evaluation of the project, which was conducted in 1995, resulted in a reorientation of the programme. In particular, a Seed Management Unit (UGS), which was originally a supervisory body, is now entrusted with organizing and leading the seed-producing network.

IV. Findings of the Evaluation Mission

After six years in operation, the project achieved tangible and important results. Certain shortcomings are noted, however, such as the failure to publish legislative texts and ensure future financing of activities begun under the project.

A. Assessment of results achieved

An act governing the production, monitoring and marketing of certified seed and plants and an initial implementing decree was adopted and promulgated. Two implementing decrees providing for the creation of a national seed and plants council, a national catalogue of species and varieties and a system of seed inspection and certification were approved by the Council of Ministers and should be promulgated shortly.

The Seed Quality Control Laboratory (LCQS), established in 1996, became operational in 1997. It was provided with the equipment it needs for its activities and it has a skilled staff. The laboratory has not yet received formal recognition, as the implementing decisions and decrees have not yet been promulgated, but it is operating pragmatically on an "official" basis since its creation.

The development of certified seed production and the introduction of new varieties of seed provide an opportunity for the various operators in the sector to become acquainted with one another and for laying a foundation for a genuine seed-producing network. The partners are currently studying the aspects of quality and producer prices with the aim of reasserting the value of national production and taking into account more fully the market demand.

A national seed and plants catalogue was established. It contains nine varieties of rice and nine other varieties are currently being evaluated. The National Agricultural Research Centre (CNRADA) and the Seed and Plant Resources Department (DSRPG) ensure the selection for preservation purposes of the varieties included in the catalogue and the production of seed intended for use by the seed-producing establishments.

The mission noted that numerous noteworthy initiatives have been introduced for the promotion of certified seed in order to spread the word quickly concerning the advantages of such varieties. These efforts include reports in the press and on television and the distribution of seed to seed-producing establishments.

Traditional crops have not been forgotten. By the end of the project, 45 seed storehouses had been established along the southern fringe of Mauritania. These storehouses have been placed under the authority of the village management committees.

B. Assessment of project design

In terms of design and implementation, both in regards to equipment and staff training, the project was perfectly adapted to the objectives pursued by the seed development programme. However, while the project achieved the majority of objectives set for it, it is still precarious for a variety of reasons:

• The seed component is still operating on an informal basis, as many of the legislative texts have not yet been published. It is, however, essential that these texts be officially promulgated as soon as possible. In the current legal vacuum, any slippage can undo all the efforts made so far (for example, by introducing poor quality seed on the market).

• Some public sector bodies that play a key role in the seed area are inadequately financed.

• Private seed-producing undertakings have a base of economic activity that is too narrow since it relies almost exclusively on irrigated rice growing, a market that could quickly become saturated.

• With regard to traditional crops the system of village storehouses does not provide a solution in the event of serious crisis, when output falls to zero.

• The organization of the rice-growing sector requires profound changes, particularly in the system of assistance provided for the growing of this crop.

• Lastly, the Ministry of Rural Development and Environment does not have the necessary resources to take over responsibility for these activities.

V. Recommendations

The evaluation mission makes the following recommendations:


The Ministry of Rural Development and Environment should quickly take the necessary measures and establish the legislative and regulatory framework. The existing provisions, which relate mainly to rice, should also be supplemented by texts dealing with other crops such as wheat, sorghum, millet, niébé, vegetables and so on. In addition, as a statute for seed importers is in the process of being promulgated, it is recommended that thorough information be gathered about the quantity and quality of seed imported into Mauritania so as to be better able to control the situation.

Seed control and certification

The seed development programme has a funding surplus that will be allocated to the LCQS, thereby enabling the LCQS to continue its activities for another year. It is essential for the LCQS to receive support for the next three or four years, with the phasing out of support to be offset by an increase in its own resources as a result of a decrease in its operating expenses, a carefully thought out increase in its fees, and an increase and diversification of its activities. The aim is that at the end of four years the LCQS will be able to meet approximately 60% of its operating expenses from its own resources. Speedy action should therefore be taken to approve a special statute for this laboratory within the Ministry of Rural Development.

Introduction of new varieties

The mission recommends that DSRPG/CNRADA should be strengthened in its function of selecting new varieties through the provision of long-term financial support from the Ministry of Rural Development. DSRPG should expand its activities on a priority basis to the major food crops other than rice, as this work cannot be taken on economically by the private sector.

Maintenance of varieties and seed production

These two activities constitute a full-time economic activity, which should be handled by DSRPG/CNRADA. For that purpose DSRPG/CNRADA needs a degree of autonomy with respect to management and financial resources. It is also recommended that rigorous and planned management of at least five-years stock of seed be established. Such planned management requires the establishment of long-term storage facilities that are reliable and sufficiently large. The mission expresses its reservations with regard to the privatization of this network, which it views as unviable in current conditions.

Production of base seed

The conditions for approving a seed-producing establishment require the permanent presence of an experienced technical specialist whose training and skills are recognized by the Ministry of Rural Development. In addition, for each seed-producing parcel, the establishments should maintain written records of their crop monitoring, in the form of registration cards. It is also recommended that each establishment should have a mini-laboratory for quality control to enable it to carry out simple control operations.

Production of commercial seeds

From the technical and economic point of view, it is necessary for the establishments to programme their production. While preserving their commercial autonomy, it is recommended that the establishments adjust their output to demand, in the framework of regular working contacts with relevant bodies. In addition, the seed industry should increase its impact on small producers by conducting field demonstrations.

Production and distribution of high-quality seed for traditional varieties

In order to place the village storehouses on permanent footing, it is essential to accumulate security stocks of base materials for all the traditional varieties grown using the dieri method (rain-fed) or the walo method (river recessional agriculture) in southern Mauritania. For this purpose, an inventory of all the traditional varieties grown in the various regions should be compiled. On the basis of a gene pool combining samples of the same variety from various sources, a programme of conservative selection over one or more generations will be carried out by CNRDA with the aim of improving the varieties. Thus, should a crisis occur, a sufficient amount of base seed could be made available to the seed-producing establishments to produce the quantities of seed necessary to restock the village storehouses in the off season.

VI. Policy Implications and Lessons Learned

With regard to the preservation of varieties and the production of base seed, the mission expressed its reservations about the privatization of this network, which is without a doubt not viable in current conditions. Privatization could be considered on a case-by-case basis as it is advantageous to Mauritania to grow protected varieties and Mauritania has accepted the norms of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.

The mission believes that in spite of the many constraints that exist relating to the diversity of the original guidelines and the variety of sources of financing, the seed development programme (PDS) has achieved most of its objectives through the establishment of a privatized rice-seed-producing network with respect to which the State exercises virtually only the functions of guidance and monitoring incumbent upon it by law. These achievements are, however, fragile both technically and economically.

The technical arrangements set up have become fully operational only thanks to the intense support of the UGS. Furthermore, the volume of work generated by activities relating to rice seed alone is insufficient to ensure the economic viability of the seed producing establishments over time. The network must diversify, which entails complementary training and high-performance shared equipment. Lastly, the statute of the DSRPG and the LCQS still must be spelled out.

VII. Evaluation Team

The evaluation team was composed of:

• Henri Feyt, Seeds and Genetic Resources Officer, CIRAD-Amis (France)

• Gabriel Bassene, Chief, Seeds Service, Ministry of Agriculture of Senegal

Source: uncdf.org  


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