April 2015 5YI - Community Seed Enterprises Strengthen Seed Markets in Southern Africa

Competitive seed markets in rural areas are critical for ensuring small holder farmers access high quality diversified seed.


The seed markets in Southern Africa have been dominated by large scale commercial companies – most of which focus on highly priced seed types such as hybrid maize, wheat and soya beans. Whilst these are fine for the large scale commercial sector, most of these seed types are inappropriate for small holder farmers given the input requirements (fertilizer, water etc) as well as being relatively expensive in the bag sizes provided. The SAMP is seeking to strengthen these seed markets by supporting community managed seed enterprises which produce and sell high quality seeds adapted to the local agro-ecology and at prices farmers find favourable.


After studying the complex nature of the seed markets in different countries, the SAMP in partnership with different stakeholders such as FANRPAN, CIMMYT and respective Ministries of Agriculture, has mobilized and trained over 1,300 farmers to grow seed through community managed enterprises. SAMP support has consisted of training on ‘how to’ grow and process certified seed, enterprise training for managing a seed business, post harvest storage and marketing of seed. The types of seed produced by these enterprises are; Open Pollinated Maize, sorghum, cowpeas, beans and groundnuts. These seed types are selected as they are the most appropriate to the agro-climatic condition faced by small holders, they are cheap (in many cases half the price of seed from large commercial companies) and offer a range of choice for farmers.  All seed is sold by the enterprises into and through the local agro-dealer networks which provide a key buying point for farmers in remote locations. All seed is locally grown and meets the certification standards as set by the national certified seed production legislation and certifying authorities work closely with farmers in a training and mentoring capacity. This is a first project of its kind in the SAMP countries of Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho, where small holder farmers produce and market certified seed using their own brands. The brands of Zimbabwe Super Seeds, Sibheva, are well on their way to becoming household names. They key now for SAMP and the community seed enterprises is to consolidate and build up to be fully fledged commercial operations which can serve the needs of small holder farmers for years to come.

 

Conclusion

By supporting community based seed enterprises, local communities are now able to strengthen and diversify their own local seed markets. At their local agro-dealer, farmers now have a choice of seed which is grown locally, is suitable for their local environment and at a price they can afford. This will enable them to produce more food for home consumption as well for the market.