The 20th annual meeting of the African Seed trade association (AFSTA) congress, which was held at Livingstone, Zambia from 2nd to 5th March 2020 brought together representatives of regional seed companies from 37 countries in Africa. Aarti Misal, Research Analyst at World Benchmarking Alliance was present at the event to discuss with seed companies the plans for the upcoming third edition of the Access to Seeds Index.
The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The seed industry has a crucial role to play as plant health starts with good quality seeds. Recognizing the heavy losses due to pests such as fall army worms and changing climatic conditions, AFSTA President Riadh Gabsi urged the seed industry to develop good quality seeds with resistance to biotic and abiotic stress.
The African seed industry also witnessed developments regarding GM crops. With Malawi planting its first Bt cotton and Nigeria commercializing the first food crop, Bt cowpea, genetically modified crops are contributing towards boosting agricultural productivity and bringing food security in the region. African farmers are facing relentless pressure to intensify food production and the seed industry has a vital role to play in helping farmers to adapt to climatic challenges while simultaneously raising production levels.
Following the positive responses to the 2019 Regional Index for Eastern and Southern Africa, and Western and Central Africa, a third Index for the regions is scheduled for publication in 2021. Engagement and consultations with companies at the AFSTA Congress ensures optimal preparation towards reviewing the scope and methodology by noting feedback from companies on the previous index.