Regional seed companies do better than multinationals in increasing smallholder farmers’ access to seeds, according to the Access to Seeds Index which was launched this week. The index ranks leading seed companies in terms of their efforts to contribute to improving smallholder farmer productivity.
The Ugandan seed company Victoria Seeds and Kenyan East African Seed are top performers in a ranking of 17 leading seed companies in the Eastern African region. They are closely followed by Kenya Seed Company and NASECO, based in Kenya and Uganda respectively. The East-West Seed, originating from Thailand, leads the ranking for seed companies active in Eastern Africa. Although much smaller in size than multinationals like DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto, the top 5 outperforms their global peers with a business model that is dedicated to smallholder farmers.
It is the first time that the Access to Seeds Index is published. It is funded by the Dutch government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Aim is to encourage seed companies to step up their efforts to increase smallholder farmer productivity, which is crucial for meeting growing food demands. Next week the seed industry gathers in Nairobi for its yearly conference where the findings will be discussed.
Last week former UN general secretary Kofi Annan stated in magazine Foreign Affairs that Africa’s smallholders are more than capable of feeding the continent, ‘so long as they boost their yields by using the latest agronomic practices in combination with appropriately adapted seeds and fertilizer’. According to Annan most have not adopted these improvements ‘because they don’t know about them, or can’t get to a place where they can buy them, or can’t afford them’.