Seed, in terms of quality, treatment and genetics contributes to substantial productivity gains for farmers. Yet farmers lack access to both quality seeds and modern varieties in much of the developing world. Farmers still plant poor quality seeds of the same varieties used by previous generations.
For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 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.
Better access to seed requires two elements: identifying new, improved varieties and then producing and distributing seed of these new varieties to smallholder farmers. However, the link between R&D and production is not happening naturally in many developing countries.
In order to improve smallholder access to and adoption of new varieties, we conclude that seed systems need:
- A demand-led approach (starting with market need) for all initiatives
- An increase in both supply and demand
- Greater local private sector involvement
- Better links between seed producers/distributors and breeders (to overcome lack of local private sector breeding capacity)
- An independent intermediary to foster relationships between breeders and seed producers
- ‘De-risked’ market entry for seed producers through patient capital, improvements to seed regulations and advanced market commitments (AMC)
- ‘De-risked’ adoption of improved inputs for farmers through access to credit, savings, insurance and better links to markets