The 2019 Access to Seeds Index for Eastern and Southern Africa is made up of a mix of leading regional and global companies in field crop and vegetable seeds. The insights below are based on publicly available information and information disclosed by the companies on engagement.
Extension services are invaluable in helping smallholder farmers to realize the potential of improved seed to increase their productivity and income and ensure they farm in an environmentally sustainable way. Accordingly, 86% of index companies report providing these services in the region, albeit with a notable geographic imbalance.
Corteva Agriscience, for the holistic nature of its training programs, and Seed Co, for the geographic scope of its activities, emerge as leaders in extension services. Since 2013, Corteva Agriscience has worked in partnership with USAID on the Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP) in Ethiopia, with a focus on improving smallholder productivity through a transition to adapted hybrid varieties, enhanced access to new technologies, on-farm demonstrations and in-depth agronomic training. The company reports yield increases of up to 300% for 250,000 smallholders across 53 districts in Ethiopia. It has also rolled out a similar program in Zambia, demonstrating the scalability of its work. Seed Co has a vast regional presence and invests in training smallholders in 12 of the 17 (71%) countries where it is present. The company does so both individually and in partnership with development agencies. Notably, East African Seed has developed training models tailored to the specific needs of individual farmers, NASECO conducts training in all three countries where it is present, and Demeter Seed, through parent company Meridian, operates a Farm Services Unit in Malawi through which 60 extension officers (‘agronauts’) demonstrate the potential of fertilizers, adapted seed and good agricultural practices to increase profitability.
Darusalam Seed Company, which holds seasonal agronomic training for smallholder farmers in Somalia, and Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation, which conducts training in four Ethiopian regions with the aim of creating additional seed demand, only offer these services in the one index country where they are present and headquartered. Companies with a broader regional presence often concentrate their resources in their home markets. A notable exception is South Africa, where only three companies (30% of those present) offer extension services for smallholders. Of these three, Klein Karoo Africa has established an accredited training facility, the Klein Karoo Academy, for the express purpose of closing the skill gap between small-scale and commercial farmers. The predominance of such large-scale commercial farmers in the South African market is a potential reason for the relative lack of extension aimed at smallholders. The regional imbalance is further reflected in the fact that none of the companies in Angola (eight), Namibia (eight), Madagascar (seven) and South Sudan (seven) report offering training programs for smallholder farmers, an area of concern given the immature nature of the seed sector in these countries.