Growing the future of African food security
Major conference highlights seeds’ crucial role
Nigeria takes food security very seriously. Hosting a major seeds conference provided an ideal showcase. Our Foundation was a prominent participant.
SeedConnect Africa Conference & Exhibition is the continent’s largest gathering of seed sector stakeholders. The recent 6th edition attracted a large international audience of seed experts, policymakers, academics, and other stakeholders. Its theme echoed Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s recent warnings: "Global Declaration of Food Emergency: The Role of the Seed Industry in Ensuring Africa's Food and Nutrition Security". This two-day event was organized by the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and partners. Our Foundation participated in both the exhibition and debates.
Nigeria gave the conference top political backing. Benjamin Kalu, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, opened the event. He called for increased investments in the seed industry to ensure food security. Research and innovation “empower farmers for a more food-secure and prosperous nation”, the Deputy Speaker declared. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, underlined these topics in his keynote speech. He linked food security to “factors addressable by the seed sector”. The government, he added, aims to “ensure that when Nigeria produces, Africa has enough to eat”.
The two-day SeedConnect program featured discussion panels on critical seed issues. The exhibition enabled delegates to learn, network, and partner with a wide range of seed businesses and programs. Our Nigerian team presented numerous improved varieties generated by the AVISA program. These included eight new varieties of cowpea, eleven of sorghum and nine of groundnut. All are designed to improve smallholders’ livelihoods. AVISA puts major emphasis on getting new varieties onto the market and into farmers’ hands.
Our Country Manager Isaiah Gabriel joined a debate on new technologies. He and the other panellists discussed how seed sector innovation can spur economic growth. Isaiah emphasized AVISA’s drive to improve new varieties’ adoption by meeting end-users' needs and preferences. “Our Foundation focuses on demand-led breeding", he said. “We urge scientists to consider Target Product Profiles and Market Segmentation.” The aim is to align breeding efforts with specific customers and farming situations. Isaiah also highlighted how the Foundation has built capacity at some 17 African seed companies and facilitated license agreements between private and public organizations.
SeedConnect participants also heard speeches by Khalid Ishiak, Acting Director-General of NASC, Bello Kaoje, Chairman of the House Committee on Agricultural Production and Services, and Dutch Ambassador Wouter Plomp, as well as representatives of several international organizations. These included the Red Cross, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the Africa Seed Trade Association (AFSTA).