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


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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs