Expert Panel 8

The role of the seed sector in strengthening the resilience of agricultural production

GFA Consulting Group & Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Time: Wednesday, 20. January 2021, 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. (CET), subsequent deep dive 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Languages: English, German

The GFFA 2021 Expert Panel on the „Role of the Seed Sector in Strengthening the Resilience of Agricultural Production“ was opened by Friedrich Wacker, Head of the Department for EU Affairs and International Cooperation at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). Mr. Wacker spoke about some of the challenges resulting from climate change, the critical role of the seed sector for climate adaptation and the engagement of the BMEL in helping partner countries to strengthen their breeding and seed distribution systems.
After short presentations and videos from two seed-sector interventions in India and Ethiopia, a panel of experts from these countries and Germany came together to further discuss the role of the seed sector for agricultural climate resilience. The topics of discussion included the necessity and potential of breeding more drought- and pest-tolerant varieties, as well as the complementary role of the public and private sectors in developing seed varieties adapted to changing weather conditions. The experts also discussed the importance of conducive legal frameworks (e.g. for plant variety protection) and strategies to improve access of farmers to high-quality seeds and acceptance of new varieties.

The panel ended with an outlook on options for south-south and south-north exchange of strategies and systems to enhance seed production and distribution for improved climate mitigation and resilience in agricultural production.


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Geert Balzer is an experienced moderator facilitating planning workshops and conferences (face-to-face as well as virtual events). He studied Political Science and Economics in Hamburg and London and has worked as a consultant for more than 30 years in over 20 countries in Africa and Asia supporting projects and development organizations. His consultancy work includes organizational development, project management and strategic planning – using a systems-oriented approach and participatory methods. Geert Balzer is partner and managing director of Team Consult based in Munich, Germany.

Introductory statement

Friedrich Wacker has been heading the Department for EU Affairs, International Cooperation, Fisheries at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture since January 2020. His remit covers EU Affairs, international trade, global food policy, FAO affairs, bilateral relations with EU member states and non-EU countries, international cooperation projects, EU accession and the organization of the annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture – one of the internationally most renowned conferences on global food security. He has profound experience in EU Affairs, international agricultural and food diplomacy, agricultural politics and rural development. He is an agricultural economist and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Gießen.

From 2010 to December 2019, he served as Head of Directorate for International Cooperation and World Food Affairs at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. From 2006 to 2010 he was head of the Federal Chancellery’s section for food, agriculture and consumer affairs. From 2001 to 2006, he served as a Minister Counselor for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs at the German Embassy in Washington D.C. From 1995 to 2001 he served as Head of Division for National and EU Policies for Rural Development at the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry.

Panel guests

Dr. Sowmini Sunkara is an agricultural professional with more than 14 years of experience in the seed sector and rural livelihoods. Currently, she is the national project coordinator of the “Indo-German Cooperation on Seed Sector Development” funded by BMEL, Germany. She holds a PhD in Biotechnology from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), India, with specialization in Genetic Engineering, Molecular Biology and Plant Tissue Culture. She previously worked as a State Agricultural Consultant at Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), Department of Rural Development, Telangana State, with a major focus on livelihoods enhancement of small and marginal farmers.

Dr. Rebeka Gebretsadik Teshome has been Senior Seed Expert for the GIZ-led Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Program in Ethiopia since August 2015. She previously worked as a researcher in the Agricultural Research Center of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), focusing on a range of topics in the Agronomy Division, the Plant Pathology Section and the Cereal Breeding Case Team. Mrs Gebretsadik holds a PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. She specializes in variety and seed systems development, crop value-chain analysis, private sector engagement, and Ethiopian agricultural policy implementation.

Dr. K. Keshavulu is Managing Director of Telangana State Seed Organisations and Vice-President of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA). He has expertise in research, management and in the seed industry being associated with various inter-national seed organisations like OECD Seed Schemes, ISF, APSA. His expertise has helped in bringing several policy reforms in the Indian seed sector, especially in the areas of quality seed production, quality assurance, marketing and cooperation with international organisations. He also implemented several seed development projects, including the BMEL-funded Indo-German project that facilitated greater quality seed access to farmers and acceleration of Indian seed exports.

Dr. Taye T Mindaye has been Crop Director of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) since 2018. He previously coordinated the EIAR’s National Sorghum Research Program and worked as a breeder and researcher. He holds a PhD in Plant Breeding from the University of Queensland, Australia. He currently leads a project on climate-smart interventions for smallholders funded by the International Development Research Centre and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Dr. Taye has contributed to numerous publications and development initiatives with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Dr. Peer Wilde is an internationally recognized plant breeding advisor, who was head of the rye breeding group at KWS for more than 30 years. In his research, Peer Wilde specializes in breeding methodology, genetic diversity and stress tolerance. Since 2017, Peer Wilde is engaged in the Capacity Development initiative of KWS supporting plant breeders at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). The focus is on the development and propagation of regionally adapted and resilient barley and faba bean varieties. Mr. Wilde’s cooperation with EIAR is embedded in the BMEL-financed program “Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Productivity”, led by GIZ.

Dieter Rücker has worked for the Federal Association of German Plant Breeders in Bonn for 30 years, where his responsibilities include international affairs. In this capacity, he is a member of numerous technical committees of the European umbrella organisa-tion Euroseeds and the International Seed Federation, which represents the seed industry worldwide. Dieter Rücker has experi-ence in development projects in Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Mongolia, China, India, Turkey and Ethiopia. Born in Mannheim, Dieter Rücker went to high school in Cologne and studied Agricultural Sciences at the University of Bonn. He is married and has three children.



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