* Nigeria’s Value Seeds tops Access to Seeds Index for Western and Central Africa
* Growing number of local companies is positive but too few currently do plant breeding
* Open-pollinated varieties dominate field crops, except for maize where hybrid varieties lead
While there is a growing number of seed companies active in the region, both homegrown and international, less than half of the 23 companies researched conduct plant breeding in Western and Central Africa. This limits the release of new varieties adapted to the region and explains the high number of varieties that are older than five years offered in company portfolios.
Ranked second is Technisem from France, which has the widest presence in the region, covering 17 countries and offering training in 13 of them. The company sets an example by establishing Novalliance, which taps into the local potential of homegrown African seed companies. Among the top- ten index companies that belong to this group are Tropicasem from Senegal, Semagri from Cameroon, and Nankosem from Burkina Faso. Their combined breeding efforts result in the most up-to-date portfolio in the region, with a high number of newly released varieties.
“What both Value Seeds and Technisem represent is the importance of partnerships to improve access to seeds in the region,” said Ido Verhagen, Executive Director at Access to Seeds Index. “In the case of Value Seeds, its partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) paid off, as its grant-based support enabled the company to improve its products and intensify its outreach to smallholder farmers.”
For the most part, open-pollinated varieties still dominate across the region, in contrast with Eastern Africa and South Asia. The exception is maize, for which hybrid varieties are more commonly available. In addition, research shows that for almost half (48%) of the crops, the most recent variety is older than five years, with only a fifth (21%) having a variety less than three years. The lack of newly developed varieties seriously impacts the resilience to a changing climate and emerging disease and pests, which reduces yields.
Compared to a dozen companies active in Nigeria and Senegal, only one company is active in each of Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. “Our study shows the potential of home-grown seed companies. However, most operate only in their home markets, which causes geographic imbalances in seed sector development,” said Mr Verhagen. “This also means that capacity building activities offered by companies only reach farmers in a handful of countries. This limits the adoption of new technologies by farmers in overlooked countries”, he added.
According to the FAO the number of undernourished people has been on the rise in Western Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole in recent years. Western Africa has seen undernourishment rise to 15.1% of the population in 2017 from 10.4% in 2010.
Link to the online report: www.accesstoseeds.org/index/western-central-africa