Program for Africa’s Seed Systems: Providing the higher-yielding seed farmers need

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By Zimbabwe Investor on October 5, 2013. No Comments

Africa is facing a shortage of quality seeds. Poor seed combined with climate change will exacerbate the already critical food shortage situation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa’s population has been growing fifty percent (50%) faster than gains in food productivity. Without dramatic action, Africa’s food deficit is projected to increase to 60 million tons and $14 billion dollars by the year 2020.

The Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) provides the higher-yielding seeds farmers need to not only avoid such a crisis but also better their own lives and those of their children.

Farmers’ productivity in Africa is limited by the fact that farmer’s have a limited choice of improved variety of seed. Most farmers plant varieties that were released more than 30 years ago or land races (farmer collection seeds).

To increase yields in Africa, PASS is establishing effective breeding and seed systems across the continent. Farmers are already beginning to benefit from the power of better seed. PASS supports country-level crop breeding teams who work closely with farmers to develop new varieties. PASS then funds and trains local entrepreneurs who establish and grow private, independent seed companies’ to produce and distribute the seed.

The majority of farmers who accessed the new seed doubled their produce. Equally important, this seed is now being distributed through a network of local, rural enterprises dealing in agricultural inputs – a mode which holds the promise of sustainability.

To ensure that research continues over the long-term on African crops and maintains a steady pipeline of new varieties, PASS supports the education of African crop scientists. To date, PASS has funded 240 Master of Science degrees and PhD fellowships in plant breeding and seed science.

PASS operates through four integrated sub-programs across the seed value chain. It begins with educating a new generation of plant breeders and seed specialists and ends with improved seed on the shelves of village-level agro dealers.