The cassava seed system in Nigeria: Opportunities and challenges for policy and regulatory reform

In many African countries south of the Sahara, farmers depend on the cultivation of vegetatively propagated
crops (VPCs) for both consumption and commercial purposes. Yet yields for these crops remain at low levels
due, in part, to the persistent use of low-quality planting material. Efforts to improve the quality of planting
material exchanged in markets or through other channels are often hampered by the unique biological and
economic characteristics of vegetative propagation—characteristics that distinguish VPCs from the major cereal
crops that drive and shape the policy and investment choices made in many of these countries. This suggests
that continued investment in new technologies and systems to produce, package, and distribute VPC planting
materials will require customized policies and policy support if these systems are to supply farmers with quality
planting material at any significant and sustained scale. This paper explores these issues in the context of the
cassava seed system in Nigeria by drawing on (1) prior research, public policy documents, and government
statistics; (2) key informant interviews and focus group discussions with seed system actors; and (3) a unique
dataset from the 2015 Cassava Monitoring Survey of Nigeria (CMS). The paper examines the production and
supply of cassava planting material, the influence of various quality assurance systems on production and supply,
and the implications for smallholder farmers in Nigeria. We describe the market, non-market, and regulatory
systems that shape the cassava seed market in Nigeria, focusing on effectiveness, influence, and reach. We then
explore the ground realities—how farmers actually acquire and use cassava planting material—given the (weak)
state of markets and regulation. This is followed by a discussion of alternative policy and regulatory approaches
to managing and expanding the cassava seed system, emphasizing a more decentralized approach that
prioritizes investment in innovative capacity at the community and enterprise levels.