This Access to Seeds Index evaluates the performance of the seed industry in taking the lead in reaching smallholder farmers in Western and Central Africa. The number of undernourished people in Western and Central Africa is on the rise and climate change is identified as major reason for this increaes. One of the main strategies of farmers adaptation to climate change is the access to new crop varieties. However, the index reveals that, while plant breeding is the core activity of many seed companies around the world, only half of the 23 evaluated seed companies in the region have breeding activities. Moreover, no private sector breeding was found in 70% of the countries. A large part of the youngest varieties in the portfolio of regional companies is older than five years. Compared to regional companies in Eastern and Southern Africa, this is relatively high, likely a result of the small number of seed companies with their own breeding program.
Only for a few crops do more companies report selling hybrids than open-pollinated varieties. Most companies have a diverse portfolio. The majority combines cereals and legumes in their field crop portfolio. Although compared to other regions, legumes are found relatively often in company portfolios. The majority of countries have a maximum of four index companies present. Sales and extension activities are concentrated in a handful of countries and training is lacking in 45% of the countries. The number of companies from outside the region and continent is on the rise. Nigeria-based Value Seeds tops the first Access to Seeds Index for Western and Central Africa, underscoring the potential of homegrown seed companies to reach smallholders in the region. By providing ‘value kits’ and training, the company improves accessibility and affordability of quality seed, particularly for next-generation and women farmers.