With support from FAO, eight African countries, members or observers of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), agreed to launch the Forum for African Seeds Testing during the ISTA 29th Congress held in Cologne, Germany, on June 20th 2010.
This is an important initiative for the enhancement of seed security in Africa, as FAST will provide a framework for activities directed to seed quality assurance for national, regional and international trade, including seed laboratories accreditation, enhancing the capacity for seed certification and will ultimately contribute to the harmonization of the seed legislation in the continent.
In Africa, there is still a need for better coordination and functioning of the public and private seed industry, this being especially true in western and central Africa. In particular, laboratories are often insufficiently equipped, and trained staff are too few to meet the demand of seed quality analyses and certification.
There is thus an urgent need to strengthen the national and regional capacity to deliver quality assurance and seed certification, in particular by building the capacity of staff and scientists, by intensifying the effort to equip laboratories, and by making knowledge and information more readily available.
FAST will function under the auspices of the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP) of the African Union, and is committed to link with key partners in order to build networks of collaboration and to create an environment where national, regional and international actors will have a role to play.
In Cologne, the Interim Governance of FAST has been established, an immediate timeline has been defined, as well as the expected outcome: in the short term, FAST will promote ISTA procedures for all priority crops in Africa, encourage key staff and scientists to share their knowledge; in the medium term, FAST will build capacity of technicians and raise awareness about the importance of seed quality; and in the long term, FAST will allow African actors of the seed industry to have stronger capacity, develop seed testing procedures for indigenous African crops, and better address quality seed production, thus contributing to food security, poverty alleviation and economic growth.
Photo credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano