Kenya is among 18 countries to benefit from Sh50 billion ($500million) maize seed production and distribution project to be implemented by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and other development partners.
AGRA President Agnes Kalibata said efforts will be fast-tracked to ensure more farmers access improved and drought tolerant seeds to increase food production and feed the surging population in the next five years.
“Even though AGRA in partnership with others has contributed in food production, a significant number of growers are still travelling for long distances to purchase improved seed varieties,” she said. Kalibata, however, noted that currently, the distance between the seeds source and farmers has been shortened to six kilometres from 50 kilometres more than a decade ago.
“Our focus is to reduce the distance even further in the next five years so that we increase food production,” she said, adding that improved agriculture means food security for all, growth of agri-based enterprises and job creation, especially for the youth. The idea, she said, is to establish a viable system for production and supply of quality, high-yielding seed to achieve agriculture transformation.
Kalibata made the remarks at a Nairobi hotel during the launch of a new book dubbed “The Pass Journey” yesterday. The book looks at the growth of the continent’s seed sector in the last 10 years. For the last 10 years, she observed AGRA work on seeds has catalysed more than Sh20 billion ($200 million) of private investments in the seed sector across the continent.
Joseph DeVries, AGRA’s Vice President in charge of programme development and innovation said that uptake of improved seed varieties in the continent is still low thus contributing to food insecurity. “In the last decade seed production has improved but acceptance of the same by farmers has been low thus contributing to low food production.
But largely the huge disconnection is due to long distance farmers have to travel in search of modern seed varieties,” he said. DeVries added that due to low use of the enriched seeds farmers have been forced to grapple with low food production.
Instead they have been recycling the old varieties that are prone to the climate change vagaries manifesting mainly in new diseases and pests. In the continent, DeVries said past studies indicate that adoption of improved seeds by small-scale farmers stand at between 20 and 30 per cent. “Our focus is to increase the adoption rate to between 50 and 60 per cent to realise the desired agriculture transformation in Africa,” he added.