A four day meeting has officially kicked off at the Lake Victoria Serena Hotel in Uganda to discuss issues that bedevil the seed sector in Africa. Over 52 seed companies fully African-owned and led are convening to recognize and learn from their peers who have attained the remarkable goal of producing and selling 10,000 metric tons of seed per year.
African seed companies are key to food security because they have the local knowledge and capacity to meet the seed needs of African smallholder farmers. This meeting is dubbed the “10 K Seed Company convening.”
During the official opening ceremony, it emerged that seed companies are key to attaining food security in Africa with an annual production of at least 10, 000 metric tons. Owing to the challenge thrown at the Seed Companies two years, Maslaha Seed Company and Oromia Seed Enterprise have scaled this goal and are supplying farmers with quality certified seed of staple crops; in Nigeria and Ethiopia, respectively.
“We take our hats off, we salute your innovations and all the effort that you have put,” echoed Joe DeVries, Director, Program for Africa Seed Systems (PASS), AGRA.
Small scale farmers remain at the heart of food security in Africa and ensuring that they get access to all the ingredients they need for their trade will make Africa food secure. There is however great concern that even the seeds that the companies produce do not actually reach the smallholders.
“At AGRA, we believe that smallholder farmers can become the bedrock of food security in Africa, provided they can access the essential ingredients of modern agriculture such as quality seed of improved crop varieties,” said AGRA President Jane Karuku.” Today, we salute all seed companies that are working to make a difference.”
There are many challenges that act as bottlenecks to development of the seed sector thus hindering many countries from achieving their capacities in terms of productions. Uganda’s Commissioner for Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Joseph Bazaale, mentioned issues of scrupulous business men and women as one of the menace in the seed industry.
“We urge all farmers to embrace the improved seeds to enable us works towards a food secure Africa. The Seed Companies should adhere to business ethics and avail quality seeds of improved crop varieties to the farmers while at the same time avoid the temptation to engage in dubious business of dealing with fake seeds,” said Professor Zerubabel M. Nyiira, Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries, Uganda.
“With the mission of ensuring quality seeds to African smallholder farmers, we have a dedicated arm of our program, Seed Production and Dissemination for Africa (SEPA) that works with seed companies to provide necessary support for them to meet the needs of the farmers,” said DeVries.
AGRA has issued start up grants to 87 seed companies in Africa and works with over 100 seed companies in total across Africa all of which are African owned and produce high quality seeds of staple crops for African smallholder farmers. In 2013, these companies had a combined production of over 80,000 Metric tons which is able to plant over 3 million hectares of land resulting in a production of about 6.4 tons of grains that is equivalent to cater for grain needs of about 45 million of people.
The strategy of working with African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the seed sector has proved successfully and effective. This, according to Joe, is attributed to the fact that the SMEs have been very innovative, as seen in adoption of small packages that can be easily affordable by the farmers and the use of mobile money technologies that facilitate better transactions and lower constructions of the farms in general. These SMEs are also going closer to the farmers and have ventured into healthy well drafted partnerships.