- Published on Monday, 21 May 2012 15:49
A new anti fake seed agency has been launched in Nairobi to step up the fight against counterfeit seeds, which are hampering yields for farmers across East Africa, by applying stringent seed regulation and farmer education to weed out the fake seeds in the market.
Launching The Alliance for Seed Industry in Eastern and Southern Africa (Asiesa), Minister for Agriculture Dr Sally Kosgei said Asiesa was being
An international organisation is funding a breeding research program to deliver quality seeds to 400,000 local farmers, in a drive to get farmers to switch from retained seeds, which are often halving yields. Smallholder farmers tend to use retained seeds because of their availability and the low cost of acquiring them compared to hybrid seeds.
However, ,according to a 2008 study by the African Journal of Agricultural Research, retained seeds tend to have low disease resistance and score poorly on yield.
Three quarters of smallholders are currently using retained seeds, said Joseph D DeVries the Director of the new seed program, Programme Africa for Seeds Systems (PASS). Yet in the first harvest, retained seeds yields tend to be 25 to 30 per cent lower than for hybrid seeds, and in successive seasons “yields decrease by 50 per cent,” said DeVries.
PASS, funded by Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), is now supporting research breeding institutions such as Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), seven local seed companies and training 3700 agrodealers from around the country on quality seed breeding and grassroots information dissemination. The agrodealers are also being taught to run the cash flows and stock management in their businesses.
In addition, 10 Kenyan science students at Masters and PHD levels in plant breeding have also been sponsored for courses on quality seed breeding, for the reason that lack of “sufficient skilled seed production specialists” is exacerbating access to quality seeds, said DeVries. The scientists are also being drawn from KARI.
Agrodealers, who are the point of contact with farmers, are being trained in the range of quality seeds released by accredited institutions like KARI. Private seed companies will also be linked to KARI breeding programs to ensure they are using quality foundation seeds. Foundation seeds are the seeds that authorised breeding institutions like KARI release to seed companies for multiplication and dissemination to farmers and agrodealers.
Currently, seed companies lack the full infrastructure to reproduce and market improved or new seeds of staple crops. Among the Kenyan staples, some 60 per cent of maize is grown from hybrid seeds, as nearly all seed companies produce the seeds. But according to KARI data, only 1 to 2 per cent of farmers in Kenya are using new or improved potato breeds.
But the $150m PASS initiative, targeted at 13 African countries, is now focused on all the popular staples consumed in Africa, including maize, beans cassava, sorghum, rice and sweet potatoes. In these 13 countries, the demand for quality seeds stands at 0.5 million tonnes, yet only 0.2 million tonnes are supplied. That is “40 per cent of the demand being met,” said DeVries.
The PASS initiative has selected seed companies to support based on its focus on staples. The seed companies had to have wide markets, be selling seeds at a fair price and in small packages, offer a diversity of seeds crops and be “focused on small holder farmers,” said DeVries.
Locally, the seed drive, is also addressing aprticualr challenges. For example, potato “certified seed is very limited in distribution in Kenya”, said John Onditi, a potato breeder at KARI Tigoni station. The high expense of investing in potato reproducing laboratories compared to maize, has seen many private seed companies shy from investing in the area.
But KARI is now working with two institutions that have potato multiplying technology: the Agricultural Development Corporation in Molo, and Kisima Farm in Timau, to multiply new breeds. KARI has also brought in scaled-down technology known as aeroponics to accelerate the production of disease tolerant tubers. Per plant, the technology produces five times more tubers. At a cost of Sh100,000, KARI is encouraging private breeders and farmers to adopt the solution.
The cost and scarcity of high quality seeds in Kenya has held back many smallholders in achieving the highest yields, as well as limiting them in trying out new crops. But the first moves by small, local producers into top quality seed production is now opening doors for agropreneurs to experiment with new, more lucrative crops.
A new insurance scheme for farmers, called ‘Kilimo Salama’, offering compensation for crop failure for the payment of an extra 5 per cent on the cost of seeds, fertilisers and inputs, has seen 11,000 farmers join up in its first 12 months, and 100 fully or partially compensated for crop failure caused by extreme drought or rain.
The micro insurance scheme which currently covers the grains like maize and wheat is an inititiatave by UAP Insurance, Sygenta East Africa, Safaricom, MEA Fertilisers and Kilimo Salama who facilitate it at the grassroots.
According to Veronica Njuguna of Kilimo Salama they first rolled out the micro insurance scheme in largely lowland regions as those have two harvesting seasons. So far in Kenya it’s in five regions of Embu, Busia, Nanyuki, Eldoret and Kisii though, Embu and Eldoret are classified as highlands.
The farmers in these regions are clustered in a 20km area covered by ‘Kilimo Salama’ weather stations that monitor the weather over a full season. The data collected is used to help compute compensation claims due to farmers, which can be partial or full. In these regions ‘Kilimo Salama’ has 27 weather stations.
Compensation can be monetary or by replacing farm inputs or seeds.
The five regions covered in the country have ‘Kilimo Salama’ branded stockists who sell seeds from Sygenta East Africa and farm inputs from MEA Fertilisers. When a farmer buys farming products affiliated to MEA or Sygenta, at ‘Kilimo Salama’ branded stockists, he is given an option to register for the micro insurance scheme.
Personal details are taken down plus the phone number from which the farmer receives a registration confirmation alert from ‘Kilimo Salama’ with a policy number. After registration, a farmer gets charged 5 percent extra on every product he or she buys. If a product costs Sh400 a farmer pays Sh420. The extra Sh20 acts as a premium that goes to UAP.
In the stockists’ outlets, farmers are also advised by trained stockists on the seeds suited for their climatic region.
According to Wairimu Muthike of UAP Insurance, farmers are entitled to total compensation if expected rains fail. The total compensation can include full financial refund for the seeds and inputs initially purchased or an equivalent packet of inputs.
It doesn’t include the earnings that would have been made from a productive crop..
But in instances where rains expected to grow maize or wheat fail by half farmers in the region get 50 percent compensation on their input costs. The rest it’s assumed can be gotten from the harvests that can be salvaged. “There can’t be total crop failure, especially in maize,” adds Wairimu.
To reduce the likelihood of crop failure as a result of poor farming management, once farmers register for the insurance they get free farming advice, relevant to their region and for the particular season, via phone text messages.
The scheme doesn’t cover crop losses to pests, floods or low crops due to poor farm management.
However, in covering against poor weather, it’s open to farms of all sizes, including small acreage of land.
Kilimo Salama is currently performing feasibility studies to extend the scheme to other regions, including Machakos and Kapenguria.
Of the partners in the scheme, Sygenta provides seeds, MEA provides fertilizers and farming chemicals, and Safaricom provides the text platform for communication.
For more details and contacts on the micro insurance Kilimo Salama visit http://kilimosalama.wordpress.com
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) maize breeding division at Muguga has released three new mid-altitude hybrid maize varieties, which they say guarantee farmers five to ten per cent more yield than any current mid-altitude breeds.
created to insulate farmers from exploitation. “Our farmers have fallen prey to bogus businessmen selling to them fake seeds, the repercussion has been poor yields that has left us with food deficit,” said the minister.
“The new alliance will help us tame fake seeds through farmer education and enhance the business competitiveness of seed companies and value chain enterprises in Eastern and Southern Africa,” she said.
The association has also been tasked with strengthening and establishing national seed trade associations for the efficient coordination of seed related issues.
Farmers in Kenya and by extension Sub Saharan have grappled with a growing number of fake seeds.
Cases over the past few months have affected farmers in the breadbasket areas of Narok and Trans Nzoia counties. In Trans Nzoia county in Rift Valley province, a local security team caught a fake seed manufacturing syndicate after one tonne of uncertified maize seeds were discovered being sold at a leading supermarket in Kitale.
In Kirinyaga and Kieni County, farmers last year lost over 2 tonnes of maize in what was blamed on having bought seeds from unscrupulous seed dealers.
The global seed business is worth over Sh249 billion, out of which sub Saharan Africa's share is only worth some 660 million. The seed trade within the Comesa region has been bogged down by restricted cross-border seed movement and technologies, but the movement of fake seed is estimated to have been growing at about 5 per cent a year since 2008.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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