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Technology

Online platform to weed out fake agriculture inputs

Dr Esther Kimani
Kephis managing director Dr Esther Kimani. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya is set to benefit from a regional seed label online verification system that will weed out fake agro-inputs and crop protection products.

This is after mPedigree, a global leader in the use of mobile and web technologies in securing products against counterfeiting, teamed up with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to expand traceability technology for agro-inputs such as fertilisers, seeds and pesticides into the Comesa region.

The move makes Comesa the first regional trading bloc to launch an online seed label verification system in Africa, thanks to mPedigree’s GoldKeys technology.

“The system will assist the region to not only eliminate cases of fake agro-inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and crop protection products but also boost trade in quality and improved certified seed,” said Serlom Branttie, mPedigree global strategy director.

Mr Branttie was speaking during the launch of the platform and Comesa Secretariat training for seed companies on ordering, use and trading using the trading bloc’s seed labels and certificates in Lusaka, Zambia.

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With the verification system in place, farmers in one country are able to trace both source and certification of agro-inputs from their smartphones, even without the internet thus ensuring production of safe agricultural outputs like maize and vegetables, thus protecting consumers in the long-run.

“This is the first time that seed certificates and verification of the seeds will be done electronically and the farmer will be able to trace the source of the seed and authenticity of the seed without difficulty,” said Mr Branttie.

Fake seeds have greatly contributed to poor performance of 80 million small-holder farmers and food insecurity in the Comesa region.

“For every seed package that will have a Comesa sticker, it means the source of that seed has been documented and can be tracked by the receiving end. Comesa will work with the National Seed authorities to ensure that fake agro-inputs like seeds are eradicated from the market,” said the Director of Industry and Agriculture, Mr Thierry Kalonji, who represented assistant secretary Dr Kipyego Cheluget.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) in September 2017 launched a text-based service to protect farmers from fake seeds, powered by mPedigree.

Kephis MD Esther Kimani said the move is aimed at rooting out unscrupulous traders who sell untested seed varieties that perform poorly, causing farmers losses.

“These fake seed sellers have also been the cause of food shortages that make Kenya spend billions of shillings on imports annually. The new security service targets small scale farmers who buy between one and five kilogramme packets of seeds,” Dr Kimani said.

She said a pilot on the new service together with inventors of the text-based security seal service, mPedigree, had yielded positive results, forcing seed sellers to vet packets to avoid being a source of fake products.

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