LESOTHO, From Seed to Market

In Lesotho in 2014, Palladium through SAMP, assisted the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) in re-drafting a National Seed Policy in line with the SADC harmonized seed quality protocols.

The aim of this seed policy is to pave the way for the growth of a regulated seed industry in a country that had never produced certified seed.

SAMP’s ongoing work in the country aims to ensure the improvement of overall access to high quality seed for farmers in terms of reduced prices and timely availability.  This will thereby improve yields and levels of food security.

Palladium’s Seeds and Markets Projects begins with ensuring the right quality seed is grown and sold in Lesotho. The most popular maize seed is ZM521 and sales of this have grown by over 1,400% between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  All seed in Lesotho was sold through Government Subsidies. Seed ZM521 has many advantages including its tolerance to drought, faster maturing time (140 days) and the fact It offers the highest grade for milling.

A first grade milling product will go further when it finally reaches a consumer’s table as less mealie meal is needed to make sadza/pap, saving money and offering a higher quality. Farmer’s work to achieve a better grade grain and yield, for example a single cob producing 14-21 lines, and each plant offering three to four cobs.

There are three stages of seed:  Breeder Seed, Foundation Seed and Certified Seed.  Breeder Seed produced by farmers under the SAMP project is considered to be the best in Lesotho.  The growing process is intensive with the seed planted in an isolated area and heavily managed to ensure purity. Palladium’s research team then multiply breeder seed to generate foundation seed which is used by the seed growers to produce the end result, genuinely certified seed which is then sold to all farmers. Foundation seed requires extensive management to keep it pure and farmers are specifically contracted to produce it.

The process of cleaning, grading, packaging and taking the seed to market is all done by each farmer as there is no system In place separating the retail process in Lesotho.

This means that farmers need to be very aware of the market when the time comes to sell as fluctuations in demand affect pricing.

In addition to the costs of producing seed, farmers are also responsible for paying for packaging material and it is hoped that SAMP will be able to intervene in 2015 with assistance in this important area.

The SAMP team in Lesotho are currently negotiating a central storage house for packaging & storage.  This will also create a central selling point with easier access for all parties.

By improving seed security, SAMP can achieve its main goal of creating sustainable crop production.  In Lesotho, SAMP now operates in five district throughout the country with 68 seed growers wihin the project.

All this begins with the right quality seed.