Seeds companies key to attaining food security in Africa

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By Jimoh Babatunde in KAMPALA, Uganda
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said African seed companies are key to food security because they have the local knowledge and capacity to meet the seed needs of African smallholder farmers.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting of  African seed Companies dubbed the “10 K Seed Company convening” AGRA President Jane Karuku they believe that smallholder farmers can become the bedrock of food security in Africa, provided they can access the essential ingredients of modern agriculture such as quality seed of improved crop varieties.

The meeting which kicked off Tuesday in Kampala, Uganda brought together 52 seed companies, wholly African-led and owned to learn from their peers who have attained  the remarkable goal of producing and selling 10,000 metric tons of seed per year.

Of the 52, two – Maslaha Seed Company and Oromia Seed Enterprise  – have scaled this goal and are supplying farmers with quality certified seed of staple crops – in Nigeria and Ethiopia, respectively. These companies responded to AGRA’s challenge two years ago at the first such convening held in Malawi.

Jane Karuku said, ” today, we salute all seed companies that are working to make a difference. We urge all farmers to embrace the improved seeds to enable us works towards a food secure Africa.

The Seed Companies should adhere to business ethics and avail quality seeds of improved crop varieties to the farmers while at the same time avoid the temptation to engage in dubious business of dealing with fake seeds,” said Professor Zerubabel M. Nyiira, Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries, Uganda.

“With the mission of ensuring quality seeds to African smallholder farmers, we have a dedicated arm of our program, Seed Production and Dissemination for Africa (SEPA) that works with seed companies to provide necessary support for them to meet the needs of the farmers,” said Joe DeVries, Director, Program for Africa’s Seeds Systems (PASS).

Formed in 2006, Maslaha Seeds has grown in scale and capacity, from an initial annual production of 600 tons of rice and maize to a current production of more than 10,000 tons of seed of diverse crops including high-yielding maize, sorghum, millet, and cowpea developed specifically for Nigeria’s growing conditions.

“Thanks to our collaboration with AGRA’s seed program, we are closer to fulfilling our promise to Nigeria’s farmers to help access certified seed and get closer to making Nigeria Africa’s breadbasket,” said Ibrahim Abdullahi, managing director of Maslaha Seeds.

Oromia Seed Enterprise came into business with both government and AGRA funding into now a formidable enterprise in Ethiopia. , The enterprise has scaled up to over 10,000 metric tons per year of quality seeds of improved variety of maize, teff wheat and beans.

“We are very proud of support that AGRA has extended to us. Apart from extending finances to us, we have benefited a lot from trainings and technical support that has made us who we are today,” Kedir Biftu General Manager Oromia Seed Enterprise.

In Uganda, two seed companies, Farm Inputs Care Centre (FICA) and Nalweyo Seed Company (NASECO) had been struggling to reach an annual production of 2,000 tons. Fortunately, with AGRA support they both have managed to grow their production to over 4,000 tons, have diversified their crops to include beans, maize, sorghum and have gone regional; distributing seeds to South Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania.

“Growth in the Seed Industry calls for high level of professionalism and technical skills. Seed companies should be run as businesses with clear focus and discipline coupled with adept financial management and great marketing strategies,” said Dr. George Bigirwa, Associate Director of AGRA’s PASS program.

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