Improving agricultural productivity in African smallholder farming is a critical outcome in the pathway to growth and poverty alleviation, according to Dr Monica Kansiime who is intent on helping the continent improve the sustainability of its seed production.

Dr Kansiime told the Power on Your Plate: All-Africa Summit on Diversifying Food Systems with African Traditional Vegetables to Increase Health, Nutrition and Wealth that the quality of seed and variety results in the success in productivity – yet there is a distinct lack of access to quality seed for many farmers trying to increase their yields and livelihoods.

In a presentation given at the summit, held online and at the Gran Meliá Hotel in Arusha, Tanzania, last week (25-28 January, 2021) Dr Kansiime highlighted how over 80% of seed sown in Africa is seed saved by farmers from previous harvests (Louwaars & de Boef, 2012).

In Tanzania, for example, she referred to research that showed quality seed supply mainly focusses on a few cereal crops – especially hybrid maize – yet estimates for the market share for improved maize is only about 10% (Wilson & Lewis, 2015).

The adoption of gender-inclusive approaches in contract farming arrangements are important to ensure women benefit as much as men (Credit: CABI).

Dr Kansiime in her talk told delegates how the Irish Aid-funded Good Seed Initiative (GIS), implemented by CABI and various partners, aimed to strengthen seed systems for African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) while complying with government regulations to produce certified seed through farmer contracts (out-grower scheme) with commercial seed companies in the Arusha region and Quality Declared Seed (QDS) in Dodoma region. This included target AIVs such as Amaranth, African nightshade, Ethiopian mustard, okra, and African eggplant.

The project implemented a range of key activities including farmer training in quality seed production, processing and marketing as well as awareness on the health benefits of AIVs to stimulate demand AIVs and subsequently for quality seed.

Dr Kansiime said, “The Power on Your Plate summit was a good opportunity to share expertise on various ways that small-scale farmers can be organised and motivated to produce and sell good quality AIV seed to fill the gap in seed supply by the formal sector.

“Linking formal and farmers’ seed systems and improving the latter proved it is an effective strategy to improving local seed supply of farmer-preferred crops and sustaining seed system functioning.”

She added that the support to farmer-led seed systems will ensure the development of a tailored seed system that meets the ever-evolving needs of smallholder farmers.

Additional information

Main photo: Sustainable seed production is the sweet smile of success (Credit: CABI).

You can read Dr Kansiime’s full presentation on SCRIBD here.

Read the associated news story ‘CABI shares expertise on strengthening and diversifying food systems at all-Africa vegetable summit.’

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