KEPHIS moves to digitize seed certification to curb fake seeds

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By Marion Wagaki, Rootooba, 28 July 2020

The government has embarked on automation of its Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection System in the country.

The existing manual registration and licensing processes have been associated with delays, documentation errors and inefficiencies, including security, scheduling and processing time; hence government potentially wanting to harness technological solutions.

The seed certification process is a clear way of assuring seed quality, ensuring that the farming community receives viable seeds, resulting in value for money. Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Ag. Managing Director Simeon Kibet says Kenya has been operating on manual inspections since the inception of KEPHIS in 1997, until two years ago when it began developing the system, which is now at piloting stage.

He explained that the process has been automated in the developed world while in Africa, South Africa and Zambia, have automated their seed certification processes.

“The Kenya Seed Company (KSC) in Kitale and Bubayi Limited are running the pilot programme with KSC specializing in all kinds of seed crops while Bubayi focuses on beans and the automation is based on lessons learned from the two African countries.” he said.   

The process of seed certification is divided into three parts; variety description, field inspections, seed testing.  

“The new system will have enormous benefits such as faster registration of seed crops, faster imputing of seed inspectors results and ease of registering crop varieties for distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS),” the MD said.

He added that it will also be easier to get accelerated crop variety release results by breeders, seed testing results transmission to seed companies and also transparency and efficient payment methods through mobile money transfer for services rendered.

Other advantages, he noted are the ease of getting seed sellers’ licenses by stockists and agents and also faster means of requesting for services such as labeling, work orders, sampling and re-sampling of seed.

“From May 2020 to April 2021, growers and seed crops are being registered online; inspections will be requested online and data captured in real time and processed automatically through the system that will be accessible to merchants online,” Kibet said.

Quality Assurance General Manager of KEPHIS, Simon Maina, noted that good progress had been made towards the registration of crops and that by November 2020, they expected to have applications for National Performance Trials (NPTs) and Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) tests.

Training for staff and stakeholders is ongoing, albeit interruptions due to COVID-19, but KEPHIS and Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) has engaged stakeholders in Nairobi, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kwale, Nakuru, Kisumu, Tana River and Baringo. The automation is financed by Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) and is expected to be officially launched in 2021.

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