Markets & Finance

New seed index to help East African farmers boost crop productivity

Farmers in the East African Community can now use the newly launched ‘Access to Seeds Index’ (2016) to make choices on quality seed to boost crop productivity.

The index shows the current performance of the seed industry for crops such as maize, rice and wheat.

According to the index, two Kenyan-owned firms — East African Seed and Kenya Seed Company — are among the top five providing quality seeds to farmers in the region.

The other three companies are Ugandan-owned Victoria Seeds and Nalweyo Seed Company as well as East-West Seed Company that is based in the Philippines but has a presence in East Africa.

The usage of the index is expected to enable smallholder farmers to increase yields, improve nutritional quality and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The index involves 10 global leaders in vegetable seed and zooms in on 17 leading seed companies in eastern Africa and unfortunately only 2.5 per cent of the seeds currently used by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa come from these companies,” said Ido Verhagen, executive director at Access to Seeds Foundation.

The foundation developed the index in partnership with Cardno Emerging Markets, an organisation that focuses on poverty alleviation in developing countries.

“The 2016 index specifically focuses on eastern Africa, a region in which agriculture is dominated by small-scale farming and the report provides evidence on how and where the seed industry can step up its efforts in reaching the smallholder farmer worldwide,” said Mr Verhagen.

Data for the research that was conducted between March and September last year was obtained from official company sources and used to compile the Access to Seeds Index 2016.

“The index benchmarked the companies on their efforts reaching the smallholder farmer in their intensified move for quality seeds to phase out the influx of fake seeds in the region,” he said.

Mr Verhagan said hunger affects almost one billion people globally and improving access to quality seeds is crucial in efforts to attain food security, especially in countries such as Kenya.