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NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Liu Peng ®, Director of Hangzhou Agrochemical Industries, takes part in the National Potato Conference and Trade Fair in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, May 25, 2017. The conference is aimed at promoting best practices for quality standards, improved yields and enhanced value addition in order to thrive in local, regional and global markets among others. XINHUA PHOTO: CHARLES ONYANGO
Improved seeds hold answer to Africa’s
food challenge: Ghanaian minister

By Justice Lee Adoboe ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Improved seeds rather than huge machinery are what Africa needs to become self-sufficient in food production, Ghana’s minister for food and agriculture said on Wednesday.

In his address at the 10th Anniversary of the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), Owusu Afriyie Akoto said the government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs” will distribute improved seeds to 200,000 Ghanaian farmers from this planting season to boost food production.

“WACCI is doing so well because the research that it is doing, the capacity that it is building for researchers to go out there and improve varieties and so on, therein lies agricultural future of Africa and nothing else. It has nothing to do with tractors and big ideas,” Akoto said.

“Just the small seeds we improved which has got the potential to increase yield, that is what it’s all about,” the minister said.

WACCI was set up at the University of Ghana in 2007 to train plant breeders over a 10-year period to produce improved seeds for Africa.

In Ghana, the maize varieties yield between 0.5 to 7 tonnes per hectare, but WACCI said with its new varieties farmers can produce as much as 10 tonnes of maize per hectare.

The minister projected that if with just 11 percent of maize farmers using improved seed in Ghana, the country will be self-sufficient in maize.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana Ebenezer Oduro Owusu cited statistics to predict that about 320 million people would go hungry by 2025 if urgent steps were not taken on food security.

Moreover, he said while great progress had been made globally in agricultural development, the untapped agricultural potentials in sub-Saharan Africa has rather contributed to extreme poverty and deteriorated food and nutrition security with over 240 million people going hungry.

Owusu said initiatives such as WACCI were therefore important in training the scientists who will help the continent overcome the food security challenge. 


Africa’s trade bloc harmonizes policies to boost seed industry  

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Member states of Africa’s largest trading bloc, have finalized development of joint policies and regulations to revitalize growth of the seed industry, officials said on Monday.

Speaking at a regional workshop in Nairobi, policymakers, experts and industry executives from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) said that a new policy and regulatory framework was an imperative to enhance development and deployment of high yielding seeds to farmers.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Richard Lesiyampe in his opening remarks said that a robust seed industry in the east and southern African region is key to achieve food security and sustainable revenue streams for rural farmers.

“A vibrant, modern and competitive seed industry is essential to improve agricultural productivity in this region. Governments and industry have a role to ensure that farmers have access to quality and affordable seeds,” Lesiyampe said.

The 19-COMESA member states have realigned their policy and regulatory frameworks to enhance development and cross-border trade in high yielding seeds.

Lesiyampe said that countries in the region have endorsed a joint protocol to hasten development of certified seeds that can withstand vagaries of weather, pests and diseases.

“Our governments are participating in regional initiatives and projects to develop drought tolerant seeds and create a market for them across borders,” said Lesiyampe, adding that technology and skills exchange is key to develop a vibrant seed industry in the region.

Growth of seed sector in the region has been hampered by disjointed policies, low technology absorption, price volatility, adulterated seeds and lack of awareness among smallholder farmers.

Gizila Takaravasha, an officer with alliance for commodity trade in eastern and southern Africa, urged governments to prioritize investments in improved seeds alongside modern infrastructure to facilitate their deployment to farmers.

“We must share best practices that can rejuvenate growth of the seed sector in this region. Governments should also regulate the price of seeds and put deterrent measures to curb sale of adulterated ones that cause havoc in the farms,” Takaravasha said.

She urged COMESA member states to adhere to phytosanitary standards in order to create a robust cross border market for seeds.



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