Helping African smallholders get better seeds
Nairobi / Basel, February 27, 2020. Seven local seed companies from across Africa have won the inaugural Seeds for Impact Program (SIP) competition. They will receive ﬁnancial and technical assistance to help them supply improved seed to more smallholder farmers.
SIP is implemented by the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA). The competition addresses challenges faced by smaller seed companies in their efforts to produce improved seed of staple crops, including publicly bred varieties.
The seven winning companies displayed an impressive range of appropriate strengths. They are LCIC in Ghana, Afritec Seeds (Kenya), MUSECO (Malawi), Oruwera (Mozambique), Beula from Tanzania and the two Nigerian companies DA-Allgreen Seeds and Value Seeds Limited.
Africa urgently needs better seeds. Crop yields for the continent’s smallholders are the lowest in the world, due partly to a lack of good varieties suitable for local conditions. As a result, Africa currently imports up to $35bn worth of food annually, an amount predicted to rise to $110bn by 2025.
AECF’s Interim Portfolio Director, Ashley Onyango, underlines her institution’s strong support for SIP. “Agricultural transformation has huge potential to improve food security and rural livelihoods, while contributing to Sub-Saharan Africa’s wider economic transformation. AECF is committed to helping the private sector to produce more and better seeds for smallholders”, she declares. “SIP perfectly fits that objective. Through the program, we hope to reach over 50,000 farmers and improve the lives of 275,000 people.”
“Many local companies face funding challenges when they want to produce seed for food security crops,” explains Sunil Hemdev, the SFSA manager leading Technical Assistance to competition winners. “To serve smallholders properly, it’s crucial that smaller seed companies can easily access finance and expert advice.” Technical Assistance makes a crucial contribution to business sustainability.
In the last 15 years, the number of local seed companies in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, has grown from two to 119. These companies so far produce seed for about 15 million farmers. “However, a lot more needs to be done”, says Dr. George Bigirwa, Head of Seeds Systems Development at AGRA. “That’s why the SIP competition is so important. It identifies companies with the greatest potential for growth and helps them improve their business and service to smallholders.”
The six-year, $6m program funds four key aspects: improving how the seed market serves smallholders, supporting greater availability of ‘in-demand publicly bred varieties’ of food crops, increasing access to other inputs that maximize farmers’ benefits from improved seed, including appropriate finance, and providing extension services, technologies and links to output markets.
Hemdev Sunil: [email protected]
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund is a multi-donor funded development institution that strives to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by unlocking the power of the private sector to impact rural and marginalized communities. We achieve this by providing financial and technical support to businesses in agriculture/agribusiness, renewable energy and climate change working on Africa, through competitive market-based approach also known as a challenge fund approach that invests in businesses, that are “risky” and struggle to meet traditional risk-return standards for commercial investors but offer significant impact. www.aecfafrica.org
Established in 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is an African-led and Africa-based institution that puts smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive into farming as a business that thrives. Together with our partners, we catalyze and sustain inclusive agriculture transformation to increase the incomes and improve food security for 30 million farming households in 11 African countries by 2021. www.agra.org
The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture creates value for small farmers in developing countries through innovation in sustainable agriculture and the activation of value chains. We help small farmers become more professional growers through science-based know-how, better access to good inputs, and link to profitable markets. In the input area, we focus on seeds. www.syngentafoundation.org