News / Africa

Local Start-Ups Dominate Africa’s Seed Industry

Access to improved seed can boost farmers yieldsAccess to improved seed can boost farmers yields
x
Access to improved seed can boost farmers yields
Access to improved seed can boost farmers yields

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
A new report released on May 7, finds that locally owned African seed companies now dominate Africa’s seed industry.  The analysis was conducted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).  It revealed that 80 small- to medium-sized African seed companies in 16 countries are equipped to produce over 80,000 metric tons of professionally certified seeds in 2014. 
 
AGRA’s director of Program for Africa’s Seed Systems, also called PASS, says Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the rapid growth of local seed companies over a very short time. 
 
Dr. Joe DeVries discussed how access to local seed that has become essential to Africa’s farmers.
 
Take advantage of new seed trade policies
 
“If you look historically, seed has always been viewed as a critical input, and even one that’s kind of ‘sine qua non’, you know for a green revolution, but we never really were approaching it the right way.
 
“We were using public agencies to get seed to farmers. We were doing ad hoc projects funded by donors to get the seeds to farmers, but we never really treated it as a local business. 
 
“So, what we’ve done is said, “Look. Using entrepreneurship and taking advantage of some of the new policies that liberalize commerce in seeds in Africa, we can make a difference now.” 
 
The report argued that if you identify better varieties of crops that farmers can grow, and link those breeding programs to entrepreneurs, they can become successful.  But, said DeVries, don’t stop there.
 
“Really stick with them and do some training,” the AGRA program director said. “Help them to develop a little bit of infrastructure around production, processing, and distribution of seed…” DeVries said the benefit is “a predictable outcome which is good for farmers and very good for Africa.”
 
The minister who inspired Nigeria’s seed industry
 
Nigeria is a success story because the nation rapidly produced many varieties of thousands of tons of seeds each year through partnerships and a revolutionary concept authored by Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, who is also a former AGRA vice president. 
 
DeVries said Adesina liberalized the production of foundation seed.  “Foundation seed is the seed you use to produce certifieds.  And for a long time in Nigeria, it was just not there.  So, even if you wanted to run a seed company, you wouldn’t have enough foundation seed stock to get up to the critical level where you could operate profitably.”
 
When these barriers were removed, DeVries said a new program ensured that all of the deserving farmers in the country could obtain a voucher that would allow them to purchase the seeds they needed from an agro dealer at a reduced price.
 
Through AGRA intervention, DeVries said, they drew the attention of the Nigerian government “so that it could actually have something to work with.  And then further upstream, we’re continuing to support the breeding of improved varieties,” said the AGRA program director.
 
More success stories in the African seen industry are coming, he said, but they face challenges for smallholder farmers who need  support to purchase the high-priced fertilizers.
 
“I certainly hope that more governments will institute subsidy programs to reduce the price of fertilizer,” said DeVries. “We feel like the seed industry can probably continue to serve up seed at an affordable price for smallholder farmers, but fertilizers really are expensive,” he said. In the short term these subsidies will be crucial to opening up markets for African seeds in Europe and the United States.
 
DeVries stressed that now that good seed is available for smallholder farmers, they need support to buy the fertilizers to improve crop production.

You May Like

Video 2nd American Reportedly Killed in Syria

Minnesota television report says Abdirahman Muhumed left area to fight for Islamic State militants More

WHO Fears Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

World Health Organization says outbreak 'continues to accelerate' but that most cases are concentrated in a few local areas More

Angelina Jolie Marries Brad Pitt

Actors wed in small private ceremony Saturday in France More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid