By Joyce Ojanji

With the use of improved seeds remaining low, despite their resilience to climate change, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre(CIMMYT) is calling for the establishment of robust systems that enable collaboration across countries to support national agricultural research systems increase data access on varietal superiority and seed demand, as well as improve the availability of Early Generation Seeds (EGS).

Speaking during a workshop on seed systems development for dryland crops in Africa within the Accelerated Variety Improvement and Seeds Systems in Africa (AVISA) Transition, Chris Ojiewo, Partnerships and Seed Systems Lead, AVISA noted that African countries need to scale up in terms of new varieties and distribution, innovative seed delivery partner engagement and immediate needs assessment.

He noted that despite having new varieties in the market, farmers are not ready to take in the seeds because the seed system is not able to respond to demand after the farmers have been convinced and are willing to try it out.

Ojiewo observed that the new varieties take up to four years to reach the farmers, thus, there is a need to invest in innovations that multiply the new seed to reach as many farmers as possible.

Additionally, he said there is a need for policies that allow seed companies to trace farmers through alternative means, particularly for crops where seed companies have not invested well in seeds. This includes allowing community seed-based producers to access farmers at the grassroots level.

According to Hellen Opie, socio-economist, Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation, the country has ventured into modules that try to incorporate both the formal and informal seed sectors so that farmers may be able to access different varieties.

She said that the innovative models are very important for the farmers because they ensure that these materials are within their reach as they work together with them even on seed generation.

Additionally, the organization also works closely with the breeders and supervises them to produce or increase the number of seeds required.

She noted that these approaches have enabled them to bring these materials right to the farmers’ homesteads, even if they didn’t intend to, with the fact that farmers normally obtain seeds by sharing amongst themselves. This enhances the acceptability of these materials by the farmers.

The three-day workshop is aimed at identifying effective innovative seed delivery models ready for piloting in various countries, performing a rapid needs assessment, identifying immediate requirements and challenges and outlining action steps aimed at addressing them.