Seed companies working for smallholder farmers are including capacity building activities in their business models. Often these services are provided in cooperation with farmers’ organizations and NGO’s and sometimes they are funded by government programs. As one company stated during the data collection for the first Access to Seeds Index: ‘If you want to introduce new technologies and build a sustainable customer base for the future, this is the logical first step’.
Although providing training for farmers – also called ‘extension services’ – is typically seen as a public-sector responsibility, in many countries these services lack reach and quality. This is why companies step in. Almost three quarters of the companies assessed for the first Access to Seeds Index reported some form of involvement in capacity building.
Private sector involvement in capacity building seems to focus on selected countries. Most activities are found in East Africa, namely Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. There is also an emphasis in India. Although trainings by companies can be a welcome addition to government programs, this limited reach also indicates that private sector involvement cannot replace the responsibility of governments and activities by civil society actors.