The provision and adoption of improved seeds and planting materials have led to increased crop yields and improved the lives of millions of farmers across the world.
However, African farmers are yet to benefit from this increase. Crop yields in the continent are the lowest in the world due to limited access to quality inputs, especially improved seed varieties suitable for the different climatic conditions and soils. Consequently, Africa now imports up to USD 35 billion worth of food annually, an amount that is predicted to increase to USD 110 billion by 2025.
The African seed market has great potential for growth given that quality certified seed of high performing varieties is currently available for less than 10% of total arable acreage in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
The total commercial seed market in Africa is worth approximately USD 1.2 billion, of which about USD 450 million is in South Africa and USD 300 million is in North Africa. Based on current seed market penetration, the potential of sub-Saharan Africa seed market is at least USD 2 billion per annum, most of which is owned by the private sector.
This growth potential provides us with an opportunity to catalyse the development of the seed market to respond to the needs of the smallholder farmers.
Seeds for Impact Programme (SIP) is a six-year initiative which seeks to address the challenges faced by small seed companies in their efforts to produce improved seeds of staple crops, including publicly bred varieties.
The six-year USD 6 million programme seeks to:
Improve how the seed market serves smallholders
Support greater availability of ‘in-demand publicly-bred varieties of food crops
Increase access to other inputs that maximise farmers’ benefits from improved seed including appropriate finance
Provide extension services, technologies and output markets
Seven African seed companies from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania, emerged as winners of the inaugural SIP competition which was launched in 2018. The companies were selected through a rigorous multi-stage process.
The companies demonstrated an impressive range of strengths and have great potential for growth and capacity to meet the improved seeds need in SSA.
The competition was implemented by the AECF with initial funding from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
Solutions that improve how the seed market systems works for smallholder farmers
Innovative ideas that stimulate and/or enrich/contribute to next-generation approaches in growing Africa’s seed sector, crowding in women and youth (efficiency, productivity, market growth in Africa)
Models that seek to scale new, in-demand publicly bred varieties of food crops (climate-smart and nutrition focus will be considered an advantage. Crops must go beyond hybrid maize).
Ability to leverage partnerships that increase the availability of other key inputs necessary for maximising the benefits of improved seed varieties including farmers’ access to appropriate finance, extension services, technologies and output markets.