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Better seeds help African farmers see higher yields and incomes


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Mil­lions of farm­ers in Africa are now har­vest­ing two to three times more grain com­pared to 10 years ago thanks to im­proved avail­ab­il­ity of and ac­cess to high yield­ing, high-qual­ity seed ac­cord­ing to es­tim­ates by the Al­li­ance for a Green Re­volu­tion in Africa (AGRA).

In a  pub­lic­a­tion track­ing the work of the Pro­gramme for Africa’s Seed Sys­tems (PASS), an AGRA ini­ti­at­ive cov­er­ing 18 coun­tries, the or­gan­iz­a­tion says farm­ers in many of these coun­tries are har­vest­ing yields of up to 5 met­ric tons per hec­tare, up from an av­er­age of about 1 met­ric ton be­fore the pro­gramme was star­ted.

Under the pro­gramme which spanned 10 years, more than 600 new vari­et­ies of major African crops have been bred and re­leased. In ad­di­tion, 112 local, private seed com­pan­ies have been es­tab­lished, up from 10 in 2007 in the whole of sub-Saha­ran Africa ex­clud­ing South Africa. As a res­ult, over 600,000 MT of high-qual­ity, high-yield­ing seeds have been pro­duced and dis­trib­uted to an es­tim­ated 15 mil­lion farm­ers, with sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact on yields and in­come. The dis­tri­bu­tion has been done through a net­work of about 20,000 private, vil­lage-based agro-deal­ers who have been trained and sup­por­ted to set up small rural shops that bring the seeds closer to farm­ers.

Speak­ing at the launch of the book, the AGRA Pres­id­ent, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, ob­served that es­tab­lish­ing a vi­able sys­tem for the sup­ply
of qual­ity, high-yield­ing seed is an es­sen­tial com­pon­ent of ag­ri­cul­tural trans­form­a­tion.

“Ini­ti­at­ives like PASS are con­trib­ut­ing to a new image of African ag­ri­cul­ture that is far from the scenes of low pro­ductiv­ity and wide­spread rural poverty of pre­vi­ous dec­ades. Today, many farm­ing house­holds are get­ting double and triple yields lead­ing to higher in­comes. They also have ac­cess to crops that are more nu­tri­tious, that are drought and pest res­ist­ant, and that cook faster using less fire­wood and sav­ing both the en­vir­on­ment and time,” Dr. Kalibata said.

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“In­creas­ing the sup­ply of im­proved seeds will con­tinue to play a cru­cial role in grow­ing Africa’s eco­nom­ies through ag­ri­cul­ture, but will be made more sus­tain­able, we be­lieve, through the de­vel­op­ment of the en­tire food value chain espexi­ally by private local agri-busi­nesses, more for­ward look­ing policies, and stronger reg­u­lat­ory in­sti­tu­tions,” she said.

Dr. Joe DeV­ries, AGRA’s Vice Pres­id­ent for Pro­gram De­vel­op­ment and In­nov­a­tion, noted that the work of PASS has helped farm­ers to in­crease their pro­ductiv­ity and well­being. “We are really pleased to see that farm­ers across the con­tin­ent have ad­op­ted the new seed. But, the really good news is that crop yields in sev­eral coun­tries are in­creas­ing for the first time in dec­ades,” said Dr. DeV­ries.

“It is ex­tremely grat­i­fy­ing to see that this cata­lytic in­vest­ment of about $300 mil­lion in the na­tional seed sec­tor across the con­tin­ent over the last dec­ade has yiel­ded a good har­vest and laid the found­a­tion for Africa to feed it­self,” he added.

Related News: State initiates nationwide farmer registration to deliver subsidised fertiliser & seed

Ac­cord­ing to the book, en­titled, The PASS Jour­ney: Seed­ing an African Seed Re­volu­tion, launched today, the trans­form­a­tion of the ag­ri­cul­ture sec­tor is crit­ical to Africa’s eco­nomic prosper­ity. An im­proved ag­ri­cul­ture means food se­cur­ity for all and growth of agri-based en­ter­prises res­ult­ing in job cre­ation, es­pe­cially for the youth.

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