A Nairobi-based Seed Systems Group (SSG) on Thursday launched a new report titled: “Improved Seeds, Improved Lives,” which highlighted the potential benefit high yielding seeds could have on agricultural development in Africa.
The report covered 15 African countries including; Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Chad, Benin and Togo encompassing 315 million people with average child malnutrition rates of 38 percent.
It revealed that if one-third of the farmers in those countries obtained improved seeds, they could generate an additional 25 million metric tonnes of food worth four billion dollars.
The SSG report is based on the experience and research in 15 African countries in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in 2009, to drive a first wave of growth for African seed industries.
The authors of the report believed that with improved seeds, it would help to transform food production and economic fortunes in some of the poorest nations in Africa.
Addressing a news conference in Accra at the on-going African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) to launch, Dr Joseph D. DeVries, President of Seed Systems Group, said the low-yielding and often disease-ridden crop varieties made it impossible for poor and smallholder farmers to improve their yields or the nutritional quality of their crops.
The situation, he said, resulted in stagnated economic growth of those countries, leading to widespread hunger and malnutrition and felt the negative effects of the climate on many farming communities.
He believed that with significant improvement in seed, there would be food security and improved nutrition in those countries.
He said locally-owned seed companies that emerged from the first wave were now producing 150,000 metric tonnes of seed annually
That, he said, was sufficient to plant seven million hectares and provide food and income for 20 million African farm families.
He said the report was drawing from nearly 700 newly-bred and government-approved crop varieties, representing 14 different food crops, including; staples like maize and rice, and nutritious leafy green vegetables, beans and other legumes.
Most of the varieties, he said were developed by breeders working with Africa’s national agricultural research systems and with international agricultural research centres, often in collaboration with AGRA’s Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems.
“The 700 new, improved varieties are an incredibly valuable asset for combating hunger and jump-starting rural economies across Africa,” Dr DeVries said, adding “Our approach harnesses the leadership of the private sector—private seed companies and agro-dealers—that can deliver new seed to farmers just about anywhere, “he added.