Kenya joins South Africa and Zambia in digitising seed certification and plant variety protection

KEPHIS 3-online

Kenya has officially launched the automated Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection (SCPVP) System. With this, the country becomes the third in Africa, after South Africa and Zambia, to digitise its seed certification and plant variety protection processes.

The seed sub-sector contributes significantly to Kenya’s economic growth and development. Agriculture is a major employer and providing the farming community with certified seed for production is critical. In the last four years, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has certified more than 213,000 tonnes of seeds.

However, while the certification process is very well defined, both in practice and the law, the activities have largely been coordinated manually. This has brought about a number of challenges, including long and costly business processes, duplication of records and inefficient traceability and monitoring of certified seed.

Also, the plant variety protection process has had its fair share of challenges owing to manual processes. They include inability to track seed-lots of certified seeds from production to the market; difficulty in producing accurate and adequate statistics and other market data on certified seeds in the country; duplication of data and effort; and the inability of farmers and other stakeholders to verify data.

Therefore, in 2018, KEPHIS entered into a partnership with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) to address these challenges through automation of the seed certification and plant variety protection processes. The system has been piloted since May 2020, with 118 seed merchants, 534 seed growers and 164 seed sellers across the country taking part. The system is now ready and the following benefits are anticipated:

  1. Increased compliance levels among seed stakeholders, given that the automated system will validate information submitted by traders, thus leading to increased transactions.
  2. Improved efficiency in the delivery of certificates and reports to seed companies and breeders, thus facilitating trade.
  3. Improved retrieval of data and statistics on certified seed due to centralised management of information and transactions.
  4. Improved efficiency in the export and import processes due to decrease in the number of systems interactions.
  5. Improved revenue from seed certification and plant variety protection activities.
  6. At least 15 percent reduction in the costs related to transactions, that is, direct (statutory costs) and indirect (borne by the trader) costs.

Seed certification facilitates the supply of high quality seed to farmers; seeds that are true to identity, high in purity and germination capacity and free from pests and diseases. This is achieved through field inspections of seed crops during active growth stage, processing inspection, sampling and testing at KEPHIS laboratories.

Certified seed must meet the minimum quality standards as stipulated in the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (Cap 326 of the Laws of Kenya).

All seed companies must be registered with KEPHIS. The companies are required to appoint agents and stockists with the knowledge, ability and facilities to maintain quality and viability of seeds supplied for sale.

KEPHIS’ automation of the seed certification and plant variety protection processes is part of its long-term ICT strategy.

The other automated processes are the Electronic Certification System (ECS) and the Import Certification System (ICS), used for export and import of plants and plant materials respectively.

KEPHIS is also at the advanced stages of developing the E-Phyto, which enables the electronic transmission of the phytosanitary certificates (also known as plant passports), used to export plants and plant material. It reduces fraud, forgeries and delays in clearance at destination markets.

The E-Phyto has been adopted at the global level for safe trade facilitation, and Kenya was among the eight countries worldwide to adopt the system. In this way, KEPHIS has facilitated business and promoted plant trade for Kenya.

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