New Sh17.8b initiative unveiled to support smallholder farmers

A worker sorts coffee cherry. Africa has not fully benefited from the advances in the seed sector, mainly due to a weak supply of quality seeds and implementation of seed policies. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

Nairobi; Kenya: A new initiative to support smallholder farmers in Africa access quality seeds has been launched. The five-year programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) in Africa was launched in Nairobi last week.

The programme to cover the seed industry in Kenya, the East African Community region and Africa at large is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Director General of International Co-operation of the Netherlands to the tune of $200 million (Sh17.8b).

It seeks to link farmers to a market-oriented and dynamic seed sector — with a pilot phase that will run from September 2014 to August 2016, according to the programme’s strategic blue print.

According to Janet Edeme, head of the Rural Economic Division of the African Union (AU) Commission Africa, farmers have not been able to fully benefit from the advances in seed sector development, mainly due to weak supply of quality seeds and implementation of seed policies.

In Kenya, the seed situation has been compounded by unscrupulous agro dealers who supply adulterated versions of branded seed varieties or fake ones—thereby leading to poor harvest.

Dr Edeme said the 5th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on July 5, 2005, recognised that African Governments cannot individually confront challenges represented by developments in the international seed industries and by legal and technical issues which restricted access to genetic resources and biodiversity.

“The assembly therefore recognised the continent’s potential for creating its own seed-producing industry and identified the need to develop a comprehensive, integrated programme and framework for the revitalisation of the African seed sector,” she noted. According to Mary Mathenge, director of Tegemeo Institute, access to improved seeds could boost agricultural productivity in Africa. “Seed is a key factor in agriculture in boosting yields,” she said.

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