The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Plant Genetic Resources Centre (SPGRC) on 18th January 2023 hosted the Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Dr. Cary Fowler, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Food Crisis Coordinator, Dina Esposito, in Lusaka, Zambia.
The two envoys, who were accompanied by USAID Zambia Mission Director, Mr Peter Wiebler, toured the regional Seed Centre to understand and appreciate its role in conservation and promoting the sustainable utilisation of plant genetic diversity and variability of Southern Africa.
During the visit, the Head of SPGRC, Dr. Justify Shava, informed the delegation of the uniqueness of the SADC Seed Centre’s network as a regional gene bank mandated to mobilise, conserve and make available plant genetic resources using state-of-the-art technologies and standards, contributing to sustainable development, the environment and food security for the well-being of the people of SADC. This has been made possible thanks to the political support that the Centre enjoys from SADC Member States. Dr Shava further went on to list a number of achievements attained by the SADC Secretariat through the SPGRC over the years, which include the successful duplication of over 12 000 materials to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which acts as a risk mitigation strategy for the whole world.
Dr Fowler and his delegation were updated on the status of theSADC Seed Centre, specifically the review and alignment of national seed laws with the harmonised seed regulatory system (HSRS), the signing of the charter establishing the Centre and the signing and/or ratification of the Protocol for Protection of New Varieties of Plants (plant breeders’ rights) in SADC to minimise barriers and unnecessary delays in trade and movement of seed across the Region.
The Interim SADC Seed Centre Coordinator, Ms. Tilabilenji Phiri, highlighted some of the achievements scored through the USAID supported “Feed the Future Southern African Seed Trade Project”. The two-year project, which ended in 2021, supported the SADC Seed Centre to upscale and domesticate the HSRS including the revamping of the SADC Seed Centre website which acts as vital information portal for seed trade in the Region. Under the pilot project, participating seed companies received a US$100,000 grant each from the USAID to help them in seed production. Through this pilot project, SeedCo Zambia Ltd produced 226 metric tonnes of improved maize seed valued at US$376,000 and exported to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Other participating companies such as Zimbabwe Super Seed (ZSS) produced seed and exported to Mozambique while Lake Agriculture also produced seed and exported to Mozambique and this was flagged off at SPGRC.
In his concluding remarks, Dr Fowler commended SADC for maintaining and supporting the regional facility. He further acknowledged the uniqueness of the SPGRC network arrangement as the only one of its kind in the world where 16 SADC Member States combined efforts to conserve and promote the utilisation of plant genetic resources for the present and future generations.
The delegation ended their visit with a tour of the fields where germplasm is regenerated for the purpose of increasing quantities and restoring lost viability.