On 29th June 2020, Botswana Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Honourable Dr. Edwin Gorataone Dikoloti signed SADC Protocol on Plant Variety Production (Plant Breeder's Rights) and the Charter Establishing the SADC Seed Centre (SSC) in a ceremony held at Ministerial Headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana.
In his keynote address, Hon. Dikoloti highlighted that protection of new plant varieties is an acknowledgement for the achievement of plant breeders and their institutions, thus, giving plant breeders a limited period of time for exclusive rights to their new varieties.
Hon. Minister said with access to a broad-spectrum of varieties, domestic growers and producers will have more scope to improve their production and productivity.
Commenting on the Seed Centre, Hon. Dikoloti said the Centre will not only facilitate the availability of high quality seeds to farmers within the region, but also help to govern cooperation of Member States in the coordination and implementation of the Harmonised Seed Regulatory System (HSRS) including registration and release of new crop varieties, seed certification and quality assurance and quarantine and phytosanitary measures.
Minister Dikoloti lamented that seed markets in SADC Region are currently fragmented, small and difficult to access. He noted that the Centre will improve regional seed trade, and subsequently overall agricultural growth, thereby boosting regional efforts in addressing the problem of seed insecurity.
Director for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at SADC Secretariat, Mr Domingos Gove commended the Botswana government for signing the Protocol on Plant Variety Production and the Charter Establishing the SADC Seed Centre and said the signing reiterated the government's commitment towards promotion of the regional integration agenda.
Mr. Gove further highlighted that restrictions due to COVID-19 are negatively affecting the access to inputs for agriculture, like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, vaccines and agricultural products, and that the new signed instruments would facilitate availability and accessibility of good quality seed to secure agricultural production and productivity, mainly in challenging situations, like the ones faced currently and mitigate negative impacts to the population.
Botswana became the first Member State to sign the Charter since its approval in 2017, and the ninth in the signing of the Protocol on Plant Variety Production. The other 8 Member States who have already signed the protocol are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia.