Developing Africa’s
Seed Systems

Several years ago a group of agriculture experts at the Rockefeller Foundation, frustrated by the state of agriculture development in sub-Saharan Africa, started a program with a simple mission. They wanted farmers in Africa to have something farmers elsewhere in the world take for granted: a steady supply of seed for more productive or “improved” crop varieties. This seed could help the farmers generate higher crop yields and overcome the constant barrage of plant pests, drought, and disease that are the enemies of agriculture everywhere.

For centuries, farmers in Africa have skillfully operated their own informal seed systems. They save seeds from one year’s crop for planting in the next and share seeds through community networks. Many have worked like plant breeders in research laboratories, combining different varieties to obtain desirable traits and collaborating with other farmers to expand their knowledge. Despite this impressive ingenuity, the performance of local varieties of maize, cassava, millet, and other African food staples now lags far behind the rest of the world. Harvests per hectare for major crops like maize can be as much as 80 percent below their potential. More importantly, this yield gap is a key reason farmer in Africa are not producing enough food to sustain the continent’s rapidly growing population. The desire to give African farmers a wider range of seed choices—including access to seed of highly productive crop varieties known as hybrids, which have revolutionized food production elsewhere in the world—eventually led to the creation of the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems, or PASS.

The company was established in 2009 with the sole objective of decentralizing the seed system so as to increase productivity in response to location-specific needs and to enable smallholder farmers in Amhara Region easily access improved seed for food security, higher income and better livelihoods.

Established in 2010, ESL is a typical start-up seed company based in Gulu District, northern Uganda. It aims to improve crop productivity, food security and incomes of smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda through provision of quality seeds of maize, rice, sorghum, beans, soy beans, sesame and ground nuts.

The company was set up in 2007 with a capacity of 600 MT of maize seed that grew to 10,000 MT in 2013. It aims to increase farmers’ access to quality maize seeds and collaborates with research institutes to provide clean seeds and training to various seed companies to promote seed entrepreneurship.

The company is an autonomous parastatal organization established in 2008 to increase food security and household incomes of smallholder farmers in Oromia Region of Ethiopia by providing improved seeds of maize, wheat and chickpea.

AgriMerc ODS, a local Organization was awarded a project support grant by AGRA valued at $1,000,000 in June 2013 for a period of 3years to June 30,2016 to implement the Mozambique Agro dealer development in Manica, Tete, Sofala and Zambezia – (MADD II).

The three-year project contributed to the intensification of agriculture in 16 districts in the Beira Corridor in central Mozambique by increasing the number and value of agribusiness transactions and increasing smallholder crop production and income from sale of surplus production.