The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has launched a new text based service to enable smallholder farmers detect fake seeds in the market. The move is aimed at dealing with the rising number of counterfeit seeds which have resulted to losses among farmers.
According to KEPHIS, the informal sector in Kenya accounts for about 60-70 per cent of most seeds planted by farmers across the country. These seeds are usually uncertified therefore denying farmers the chance to maximize yields in their farms. The hardest hit areas include western Kenya and the Rift Valley regions, which form a bulk of Kenya’s bread basket.
Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) reports that on average only about 20 per cent of farmers in Africa use seeds of improved varieties.
In October this year, KEPHIS in collaboration with the Agriculture ministry said all seeds below 10kg will be placed with scratch off sticker labels.
“The labels when scratched reveals a code, farmers can send the code to the number 1393 to ascertain if the seeds are genuine” said KEPHIS Managing Director Esther Kimani.
“If you do not get the company’s and seed details then the seeds are fake and you should report this immediately to the nearest KEPHIS office"
The message will contain the type, species of the seed, the variety, HP class, and the testing date.
A farmer planting maize seeds in her farm
The company is currently training 19 representatives from the seed industry on the seed certification process. Some of the reps who are undergoing two weeks’ training include those from Kenya Seed Company, Pioneer Hybrid, Dryland Seed, East Africa Seed, Agricultural Development Corporation and Gicheha farm amongst others.
The training covers both theory and practical’s and seeks to build capacity of the participants in the production, inspection and testing of quality planting material and promote accessibility of affordable seeds to farmers.
“The training of private seed inspectors is part of the implementation goals for farmers to have quality seeds as envisioned in the vision 2030 where integrity is key for authorization to be a reality” said Kimani.
After the training the representatives will be authorized to complement KEPHIS efforts in enhancing efficiency in the seed certification process.
In the last two years farmers who have used certified seeds have doubled their yields from two million to four million mega tonnes of cereals, soya beans and groundnuts, in monetary terms this has resulted to Sh220 billion in incomes for the smallholder farmers according to AGRA.