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Kenyan official urges regional blocs to finalize deal on seed trade

by Peter Mutai MOMBASA (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday urged regional economic blocs to finalize a tripartite agreement on easing cross border trade in seeds.

Hamadi Boga, principal secretary for agricultural research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, said that once the tripartite agreements are finalized, farmers across the region will have improved access to quality and certified seeds.

"The agreement should ensure that we maintain excellent seed trade and movement by protecting intellectual property alongside phytosanitary matters," said Boga at a pan African seed forum in the coastal city of Mombasa.

He urged the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Southern Africa Development Community and East African Community to act fast to help meet the continental trade agreement and food security plan.

Boga said that studies have shown that in cases where certified seeds are adopted and planted, yields increased by about one and half times hence leading to poverty reduction and transformation of livelihoods.

The official said that there is need to improve performance of the seed sector in the continent, adding that Africa’s share in the global seed trade is relatively small.

He urged African policymakers to harmonize phytosanitary measures for seed in order to facilitate their free movement across borders.

Boga called for encouraging investment in seed business in the member states, increasing access to existing varieties in the countries and stimulating the breeding and availability of improved seed varieties.

He said that all stakeholders in the seed industry must be conversant with the harmonized regulations to enhance seed trade in the regional blocs.

"Seed companies should take advantage of the harmonized seed regulations to widen and promote competitive and sustainable markets for crop seeds within their regions," said Boga.

He noted that investments in irrigation is key to boosting food production amid shocks linked to climate change.

Boga said that farmers should be encouraged to use drought tolerant and certified seeds in order to attain food security.


African seed firms revolutionizing outreach to small-holder farmers: study

by Naftali Mwaura NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Indigenous seed companies in the sub-Saharan African region have proved more adept at reaching out to small-holder farmers when compared to their multinational peers, says a study launched in Nairobi on Monday.

The Access to Seeds Index 2019 study that covered east and southern African region revealed that home grown companies boosted productivity at smallholder level thanks to timely supply of certified seeds and provision of extension services.

"The index reveals that seed companies are successfully serving smallholder farmers.

"They stand out because they integrate these small-holders in their business model," said Sanne Helderman, a senior researcher with the index study that is supported by Netherlands Government and Bill & Melinda Foundation.

More than 20 seed companies in east and southern Africa were evaluated during the survey which focused on critical areas like governance, transparency, marketing, research and development, intellectual property and leadership.

Kenyan-based East African Seed Company emerged the top in the survey followed by Seed Company whose headquarters are in South Africa thanks to their large network of extension workers coupled with better understanding of local crops.

"Two African seed companies at the top of the ranking is no surprise, given their deeper understanding of the region and the challenges smallholder farmers face," Helderman said.

She urged African governments to rollout policy and legislative incentives that are key to growth of a vibrant local seed industry that is responsive to the needs of small-scale farmers.

The study revealed that Kenya and South Africa are the leading hubs of production of high quality seeds thanks to advanced infrastructure, abundance of skilled labor and a vibrant agro-processing sector.

Jitu Shah, managing director of East African Seed Company Limited, said that government-industry linkages are crucial to increasing production of hybrid seeds and eliminating hunger and malnutrition affecting small-holder farmers in Africa.

"The private sector can support government funded research on improved varieties that our small-holder farmers require to achieve food security and become resilient to climate change," said Shah.

He said that state funded breeding programs should in the near future focus on tubers, vegetables and orphaned crops as opposed to maize in order to achieve food security and expand revenue streams for African smallholders.



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