State of the Art Seed Management Facilities Open at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Nairobi, February 2017 – Africa’s capacity to produce seed of high-yielding varieties of staple food crops received a major boost with the launch of a modern seed processing facility and a seed laboratory at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.
The seed processing unit will be used as a training resource for local seed companies and for processing seed from the University Seed Company (UNISEED). It will also offer processing services for local seed companies that do not have adequate internal capability.
These new facilities form part of the Seed Enterprise Management Institute (SEMIs), a training facility for managers of seed companies from around the region. Availability of high yielding and quality seed remains low in sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 20 percent of the farmers use improved seeds. This greatly affects productivity, economic growth and the attainment of food and nutrition security targets.
The new facilities will enable the institute to train more seed specialists from across the continent. So far, SEMIs has trained close to 850 specialists including personnel from over 100 seed companies from 16 African countries since its inception in 2011. Postgraduate students pursuing plant breeding and seed related disciplines who train at the institute will also benefit from the facilities.
In addition, the facility will be used in the multiplication of seed of high-yielding bean varieties bred at the University’s 13-acre breeding station. Currently, the institute is multiplying foundation seed of six recently-released bean varieties that have been licensed to the Kenya Seed Company. This has been a major success with, for instance, over 2.5 tons of breeders’ seed produced and handed over to Kenya Seed Company for further multiplication and production of certified seeds for the mass market.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the facilities, Prof. Peter Mbithi, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, lauded the pioneers of the project who dared to dream that such a project was possible. “Academia offers a fertile ground for big ideas. When one dares to dream, they have courage and commitment to achieve their targets,” he said.
AGRA’s Vice-President for Programme Development and Innovation, Dr. Joe DeVries, emphasized that this is not a gold-plated facility but a practical learning resource for up-and-coming seed companies of Africa. “We purposely built the facilities here to showcase the kind of equipment and machinery local seed companies can afford. The installed equipment is adequate for a young seed company of the type that comes to learn at SEMIs,” he said.
The Seed Enterprise Management Institute (SEMIs) is a collaborative project between the University of Nairobi’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences (CAVS), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Iowa State University (ISU), the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (KALRO), the Kenya Seed Company, a host of agricultural consultants, and private and public institutions involved in seed production.