By AGRA Content Hub

Assisting smallholder farmers to confront the constraints to food crop production and the emerging threats brought on by climate change calls for experience, expertise and the strength of partnerships to scale up the delivery and adoption of improved seed and fertilizers.

AGRA supports both public and private sector partners to develop the systems capable of sustaining the availability, delivery and adoption of improved seeds and fertilizers. Within the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (PIATA), an initiative that aligns with the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, AGRA, USAID, Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are collaborating for the agricultural transformation in Africa.

The interventions are in tandem with the African Union’s (AU) promise to end hunger by 2025, and complement national economic strategies by ensuring a seamless implementation of the various initiatives. Thus, the deliberate focus on a market driven, business agenda that encompasses the entire food system beyond agricultural production.

Led by AGRA and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in line with the Seeds Systems Development interventions to increase staple crop productivity, food and income security for smallholder farmers in Nigeria, a recent training was held to upgrade the skills of technical staff in partner seed companies, specifically those directly involved in field, processing and storage activities.

Among them were production managers, technical staff, young breeders, factory managers and outstanding out-growers. The 45 beneficiaries included 37 technical staff from 15 seed companies and 8 seed certification officers from the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Nigeria’s regulatory body in seed systems.

With a focus on seed production techniques for quality maize, rice and soybean seed production technique, trainees learned how to plan, establish and manage seed fields and post-harvest products to produce and distribute good quality foundation and certified seeds for maize, rice and soybean.  Special attention was given to hybrid seed production and maintenance of hybrid parental materials which require more complicated techniques. The local seed companies also benefitted from technical and operational skills to improve their competitiveness in a field dominated by multinational seed companies. hybrid certified and foundation seed production and maintenance techniques (field and post-harvest activities).  They were also introduced to seed certification regulations and standards as well as seed production planning.

Three categories of seed companies were given priority: those involved in Kaduna and Niger Consortia respectively, those that recently received rice breeder seeds from AfricaRice for the production of foundation and certified seeds and young registered seed companies with little experience.

The seed companies selected were from Kano State, Kaduna State, Niger State, Zanfara State, Katsina State and Plateau State respectively. Among the beneficiary seed companies were Premier Seeds, Value seeds, Tecni Seeds, Da-Allgreen Seed, Manoma Seeds, Goldagric, Maina Seeds, Ideal Agro Seeds, WACOT, GreenSpore Agric, Nagari Seeds, Savannah Seeds, Maslaha Seeds, Rahama Seeds and Jamy Nagari Seeds Ltd.

The focus on a market-driven, business agenda that encompasses the entire food system is deliberate.

Participants learned how to computerize their record keeping, data management and seed business analysis.  This is in addition to being able to store short-to-long-term data such as geographic coordinates of out-growers, pre-planting data, planting data, quality assurance data, harvest data as well as post-harvest data as well as generating information for performance evaluation, planning, tracking seed volumes and the evolution of productivity.