Building the Seed Industry and Fighting Food Insecurity in West Africa | CNFA
With much of West African agriculture at a subsistence level, the majority of the land is cultivated by smallholder farmers, who often rely on saved seed or seed sourced through informal networks, sources which tend to be inconsistent in terms of quality, vulnerable to new pests and diseases and, while cheap, take up valuable land due to extremely low productivity. In addition, fertilizer or chemical inputs tend to be wasted on this seed. Therefore, although the cost of inputs may currently be low, the cost per ton of output is exceedingly high, profitability is low and smallholder farmers are trapped in a cycle of low productivity, which prevents them from generating a marketable surplus. Access to inputs such as improved seed varieties, fertilizer and crop protection products are imperative to the transformation of the agricultural sector from subsistence farming to small-scale commercial agriculture.
CNFA’s Seeds Project, part of the West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA), was created to enable the transformation of West African agriculture from mostly subsistence farming to profitable, self-sustaining and competitive commercial agriculture. The five-year project, funded primarily by USAID and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and implemented with partners ICRISAT and Iowa State University, is designed to modernize seed distribution systems, facilitate smallholder farmer access to improved seed varieties and complementary inputs, improve seed production technologies and strengthen links to credit and markets.
Specifically, the Seeds Project is strengthening West Africa’s seed system through three core intervention areas in the six target countries of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal:
Improvement of Seed Policy Enabling Environment
CNFA leads the seed policy component, actively shaping West African policies to promote the interests of private sector growth and of the rural smallholder farmer. For example, in Ghana, CNFA aided in the successful implementation of a new Seed Law, which was designed to make the seed industry more robust and increase the active participation of the private sector in the seed production and development process, by holding workshops to inform and train seed producers on vital aspects of the legislation that will directly impact their activities and responsibilities under the law.
Seed System Development
The Seeds project is also working toward the successful development of a new seed system in West Africa based on higher-quality seed varieties and increased demand for improved inputs among farmers by implementing several new activities: production of breeder and foundation seed, which will ensure that new seeds used in these countries are genetically pure and will continue to produce commercially viable, high quality seeds in the future; production of certified seed, which ensures that farmers have access to quality inputs and that new seed varieties meet standards set by the government and other regulatory groups; testing of new and improved seed varieties for commercial use; creation of demonstration plots and farmer field days in order to increase farmer demand for improved inputs; and seed production trainings to provide farmers with necessary technical skills.
Strengthening of Input Supply Chains
The Seeds project also aims to improve input supply chains in order to increase farmer productivity, incomes and access to vital tools such as microfinance. This aspect of the project includes activities such as mapping and surveying to identify where seed producers and agrodealers are located, development of adapted financial products that meet the needs of agrodealers and smallholder farmers and demand-generation activities like farmer field days and demonstration plots.
- Advance the development, modification and implementation of national seed laws and regulations in the six Project target countries
- Conduct seed variety trials and release in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal for cereals and vegetables
- Produce foundation and certified seed and make available for distribution
- Create and strengthen private seed enterprises throughout the target countries
- Provide business management and technical training to at least 2,000 agrodealers and seed producers throughout the Project countries
Related CNFA articles
- Mali: Sowing the Seeds of Success | CGIAR – ICRISAT (africaseed.net)
- Saving Africa’s maize and cowpea from the violet vampire | IITA (africaseed.net)
- Action must be taken now to prevent an ever-worsening cycle of hunger | Caroline Kende-Robb (guardian.co.uk)
- Growing Rwanda Out of Poverty (forbes.com)