Seeds2B - Seeds Systems Development
With Seeds2B, the Syngenta Foundation is improving smallholders' access to high-quality seeds. By enabling farmers to make an informed choice, we aim significantly to improve their harvests. Seeds2B is active in Senegal, Mali, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Indonesia.
Meet the Seeds2B team in Africa and India (July 2016).
Hear team member Abdoulaye Diop from Sénégal talk on Radio Futurs Médias, one of the country's leading stations (March 2017).
In March 2017, Seeds2B staff and partners published a paper in Agriculture & Food Security. This examines the productivity and food security effects of using certified seed potato in Kenya. The study found positive effects on both.
Seeds2B staff also helped write an October 2016 article in Agriculture. This presents "Determinants of the Use of Certified Seed Potato among Smallholder Farmers: The Case of Potato Growers in Central and Eastern Kenya". Distance to market, household food insecurity and asset endowment are the most important.
Soybean trial reports
Soybean could be an ideal crop for African smallholders. So far, few of them have benefited. Yields remain very low. The main reason is a lack of good tropical varieties. With partners, we're testing for better ones. Here's a background interview with a former member of our Kenyan team. The initial trial report in 2016 showed some promising candidates.
In April 2017, after the first soya test period in Kenya and Mali, we sent the following reports to the breeders concerned. The aim is now to move the best varieties forward to registration.
Seeds2B Africa 2015 Variety Catalogue
Seeds2B Africa is a technology transfer and match-making initiative. It has recently developed its first catalogue. This document aims to connect buyers (local distributors in Senegal and Mali) with sellers (variety owners). It is available in English and French.
The product range currently features eggplant, watermelon, tomato, maize, sunflower and sorghum. The varieties have successfully passed adaptation and marketing trials. They all performed well in the local agro-ecologies, benchmarked against the best locally available alternatives. Farmers also praised them for additional features such as colour, taste, shape and cooking time. All of these aspects are important for marketing.
We developed the catalogue on behalf of variety owners. It represents one piece of our work with partners to strengthen the value chain link between plant breeding and distribution, and ultimately seed multiplication. Our aim is to ensure that an increasing number of smallholders can have access to a wide choice of the best varieties for planting. The Seeds2B Africa initiative is part of SFSA’s global Seeds2B initiative.
Seeds2B Africa (Connect) introductory leaflet
The Seeds2B Connect model helps smallholders in Subsaharan Africa increase their incomes and food security. Seeds2B Connect facilitates the introduction of quality seeds to African businesses in emerging markets. It provides more choice to complement local sources. Seeds2B Connect connects and coordinates a wide range of public and private breeders (both African and non-African) with local seed producers and distributors. Where desirable, it also facilitates local seed production (ask us about the Seeds2B Build model). Here is an introduction to Seeds2B Africa Connect.
Rice seeds production guide
In 2013, Seeds2B specialists trained members of a smallholder seeds co-operative in Côte d’Ivoire on certified rice seed production of OPV varieties. Africa Rice supplied the foundation seed. The successful training resulted in achieving 5.5 t/ha, which yielded 5t/ha of quality seed after cleaning. The training was repeated for OPV rice seed producers in Rwanda in 2014. We subsequently developed a training manual in collaboration with IFDC and Wageningen UR. The manual is currently being translated into English and will be used to train smallholders in Myanmar.
Voici notre guide de formation "Production de semences de riz" (2015). Ce manuel est prévu pour les agents chargés de former des producteurs. Parmi les auteurs: Camille Renou, collaborateur de notre Fondation.
On the topic of catalogues...
Congratulations to the National Potato Council of Kenya. Together with partners at KEPHIS and KALRO, the NPCK recently launched a new potato variety catalogue.
In the USA, state potato seed catalogues are a tried and tested means of linking buyers and sellers. The new Kenyan seed catalogue describes available registered potato varieties, public and private. For the first time, it also includes the contact details of registered potato seed suppliers. "This list should help build the market for potato seed, as well as addressing the chronic lack of certified seed available to Kenyan potato farmers", comments the Syngenta Foundation's Ian Barker. "We supported the evolution of this catalogue through its first edition in 2013 to the new expanded 2015 version." Advertisements from a range of Kenyan input suppliers help defray the cost of production.
The background to Seeds2B: lack of access
Across the developing world, 450 million smallholder farmers play a vital role in agricultural production, providing 80% of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)*. In SSA, important crops such as sorghum, potatoes, beans and cassava are grown on more than 29 million hectares and support 100 million smallholders**. Yet, quality seed of better-performing varieties is only available for up to 10% of the area**.
A similar situation exists across the developing world for many other crops. Forecasted population growth in the emerging economies is expected to compound pressures on resources. Lack of widespread access to improved varieties is a major constraint on smallholder development. Mechanisms to improve access to affordable and better-performing varieties are needed, in order to help smallholders increase their yields and incomes.
Informal (farmer-based) seed systems and public seed delivery channels remain the dominant and often the most appropriate delivery mechanisms for a wide range of crops. In addition to these, Syngenta Foundation (SFSA) believes that private seed companies could play a much bigger role in supplying quality seed of modern varieties to smallholder farmers. Yet many seed companies in developing countries (particularly Sub-Saharan Africa) currently lack capacities for research into improved varieties (breeding), with these remaining largely in the public sector.
Seeds2B as a market-oriented approach
To accelerate seed sector development and complement existing initiatives, Seeds2B is guided by three key principles. It works towards:
1. Developing enabling seed policy environments, by ensuring the proper functioning of seed systems through regulation, while also creating attractive conditions for private seed sector development;
2. Assisting emerging small- and medium-sized seed companies in acquiring and developing improved varieties of a wider range of crops by linking them to public and private breeders.
Public-private partnerships that link public breeders with private seed companies are an obvious solution, as occurred in the Indian Green Revolution, which enabled India to not only attain food self-sufficiency but also become a leading agricultural producer globally***.
It may also be beneficial to explore whether privately-bred varieties from one part of the world are also suitable for use eleswhere. This could be done alongside support for nascent private breeding initiatives within developing countries;
3. Developing confidence and building markets for seeds:
By emphasizing private sector seed companies as the sustainable delivery channel of quality seed of improved varieties to meet diverse smallholder needs for affordable, better-performing varieties; and
Through support packages for smallholders to reduce financial risk and increase adoption rates of improved varieties (e.g. credit and savings, crop insurance, extension, better links to markets to assure income and advanced market commitments).
More on Seeds2B
Following a successful pilot phase in East and West Africa, SFSA and AATF (African Agricultural Technology Foundation) are jointly scaling up this Seeds2B initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa. We aim to get improved seed to an additional 250,000 smallholder farmers from investments made between 2014 and 2016, and estimate that this will generate an additional $200 million in revenue for these growers. Here are the media release and a Kenyan newspaper report.
October 2015: Congratulations to Kisima Farm Ltd.! The farm won the 2nd Runner-up Award at the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) Conference in Lusaka. Kisima Farm has invested in potato seed as a business. As a result, already over 12,000 more Kenyan smallholders have access to quality seed. A CIP/Syngenta Foundation study shows the benefits. The seed improves yields so much that the smallholder buyers have earned about an extra six million dollars.
The Syngenta Foundation has been a partner of Kisima (pictured) since 2009. We are a co-investor with AECF, and also provide technical consulting on agronomy and in-licensing of new varieties. "The Kisima story is a good example of the private sector applying its skills and capacity to get seed of public-bred varieties, in this case from CIP and KALRO, to farmers at scale", says the Syngenta Foundation's Ian Barker.
Watch a Kenyan film about a soybean field day for smallholders and other participants.
Find out why our African variety testing work with the Soybean Innovation Lab is so important.
See what happened at our 2015 Open Days / Journées Portes Ouvertes in Senegal.
In Indonesia, a potato partnership is shaping up even better than expected. Read how.
Here is a February 2015 presentation about "Bridging the seeds divide".
See what Foundation employee Camille Renou says about his seeds work in West Africa.
In November 2014, Kenya's Nation newspaper featured Seeds2B and some of the farmers benefiting.
Storage is a crucial topic in the potato value chain. Here is a novel straw-insulated store used by some smallholders with whom we work.
(Designs shown courtesy of Michael Spencer at the copyright holders Studio Re, Design and Development Inc. For questions related to the design, please contact [email protected]).
The International Potato Center has investigated the impact of Seeds2B in greater detail (interim report 2014).
See our Foundation's expert Ian Barker talk about seeds with CIAT.
*IFAD (2011): Smallholders can feed the world.
**SFSA internal data
*** Ferroni (2012): Transforming Indian Agriculture. Sage, New Delhi, pp. 3-4.