Seed systems in several ECO countries are still largely characterized by standards and procedures inherited from the former Soviet Union. However, as those countries now seek to develop their own national systems, collaboration between the countries has become more difficult. There is also a need to secure an efficient flow into the countries of information about international regulations, and about arrangements in more developed countries to stimulate the flow of new technology from research to farming families.
Stakeholders in many ECO countries confirm that essential precursors of stronger seed systems are (i) more consultation and collaboration about seed sector development issues - not only between member countries but also with specialists from developed seed systems outside the Organization and from international regulatory bodies; and (ii) a more efficient presence/visibility in the countries of international technology and know-how. Also, the need for training in various aspects of seed technology, seed marketing, seed programme management, and other aspects of institution strengthening and capacity building, is being highlighted by several stakeholders.
Experience from other developing regions i.e. Asia and Pacific, Africa, and Eastern Europe suggest that a recurrent regional seed conference not only provides an efficient forum for consultation and seed trade but also offers the potential to become self-sustainable (for information on seed networks bordering Central Asia and their funding, see Annex 11).
It is therefore also expected that a well-organized conference activity within the ECO will generate sufficient resources to allow for the conference to be repeated in the future without continued external development support. Furthermore, during the visit of the FAO/ICARDA mission, and during subsequent consultations in the Region , seed development projects and international research centres confirmed the need for a regional seed organization and their interest in supporting a regional seed conference.
The impact of a conference activity will be further reinforced through the documentation and presentation to the conference of new and detailed analysis of critical issues faced by the national seed and farming systems and by introducing tested solutions from more developed regions. Review of such material is expected not only to stimulate consultations about collaboration across borders and modern approaches to seed marketing but also to attract conference participation by seed and equipment suppliers from Asia, Europe and United States, which in turn will contribute to conference sustainability.
The establishment of a recurrent regional conference for exchange of information and experience, possibly underpinned by a regional seed association for Central Asia, will furthermore provide for better opportunities to exploit the results of national seed projects and activities in several countries through networking at the regional level. Access to a well organized regional meeting also offers excellent opportunities for the many emerging private seed enterprises in Central Asia to access new PGR, trade seed products, and thus to expand and consolidate their businesses. This kind of development will eventually benefit farmers who need seed.
Recent international/regional seed conferences organized by various projects and organizations in Turkey (the WANA International Seed Trade Conference by ICARDA and the Turkish Seed Industry Association, November 2005) and in Kyrgyzstan (by the Kyrgyz Ministry of Agriculture, the seed industry and various development projects, December 2004, including four countries, and to be repeated in November 2005) and the commitment by ECO of a cash contribution to support preparations for the TCP project clearly indicate that ECO member countries see a need for and will support institutionalized, regular consultations on regional seed issues.
However, in order to initiate the process of ongoing and regular consultation and collaboration described above, there is a need for external expertise and initial financial support, which the countries lack. For this reason, FAO’s assistance is sought in the form of a TCP to facilitate the process of preparation and support for the organization of the first ECO regional seed conference and the establishment of a permanent regional forum for consultation.
The overall objective of the assistance is more efficient seed production, distribution and marketing systems developed in ECO member countries and in other countries of the Central Asian region.
In contributing to this, the project will meet the following immediate objectives (IO):
IO 1: Organization, capacity and current developments of seed systems in the countries analysed.
IO 2: Twenty seed entrepreneurs trained as trainers in modern seed marketing and promotion activities for future in-country training in the ECO region.
IO 3: Public and private seed sector stakeholders introduced to international technology, standards and regulations - and a process of regional consultation initiated to harmonize trade-impeding seed regulations.
IO 4: The potential analysed for a recurrent regional seed conference, possibly supported by a regional seed association for Central Asia, which will stimulate exchange of genetic resources, seed, technology and know-how.