A seed index project for African smallholders may “future-proof” farming. The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) is an initiative to improve access to food crop seeds for small farmers, and in the process, to help boost global food security.
Seed delivery systems are vital. Getting new seed varieties from breeders to farmers is important for agricultural productivity and sustainability. In a pilot study TASAI found that in some African countries, the time for seeds to reach farmers – and the number of seed varieties released – differed significantly. For example, in a three-year period, South Africa had released a couple hundred varieties of maize, as opposed to Uganda, which had released only 12.
The index provides measurements within five categories, including research and development, industry competitiveness, service to smallholder farmers, seed policy and regulation, and institutional support. The information for each country is gathered and compared with other countries. It can then be shared with policymakers, investors, or development agencies, so that key individuals and groups can see what’s needed, and where.
Commenting on the index launch, Joe Devries, of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), said: “It’s crucial that smallholder farmers in Africa have access to a wide range of crop varieties because small farms are the mainstay of food production in the region.
“Seeds may not be a cure-all, but without a healthy seed sector it’s hard to see how African farmers can satisfy the food demands of a population growing faster than anywhere on Earth and adapt to climate change that are rapidly altering farming conditions.”