East African Seed

East African Seed Co Ltd (East African Seed) supplies agricultural chemicals and equipment, ornamental seed and a wide range of global field crop and vegetable seeds. The company was established in 1972 in Kenya and today has breeding, seed production and sales locations throughout Eastern and Southern Africa. Smallholder farmers are the company’s main clientele, maize, tomato and watermelon are its main crops in the region, and East African Seed sells under three main brands: EASEED (Eastern Africa), Syova Seeds (Zambia) and Agriscope (agrochemicals).

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Eastern and Southern Africa

Summary of results:

East African Seed leads the Eastern and Southern Africa Index, a reflection of its strong and consistent performance across the majority of the measurement areas. The company is a leader in Research & Development, with a smallholder farmer-focused research program for both global and local crops, smallholder feedback mechanisms, collaborative research activities and training programs for local plant breeders. The company owes its strong performance in Seed Production to a commitment to engage smallholder farmers and stringent quality management procedures. In Capacity Building, the company tailors its agronomic training to the specific needs of individual smallholders and demonstrates a region-leading pool of dedicated extension staff. East African Seed also excels in Marketing & Sales, reaching remote areas in its core markets, offering smallholder farmers access to agricultural inputs beyond seed and implementing a range of demonstration and promotion strategies. The company lags in Intellectual Property, placing several restrictions on smallholders’ ability to use farm-saved seed, and Genetic Resources, where it does not report on any access and benefit-sharing activities.

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Operations in Scope
  • Countries in Scope
  • Company Presence
  • Production Locations
  • Breeding Station/R&D
Index Crops in Portfolio
Sales Seed type Source
bdi eth ken mwi moz rwa som ssd tza uga zmb Hybrid OPV GM Own
from other
Field crops
Beans, dry
Pigeon pea
Rice, paddy
Green bean
Green pea
Pepper (hot)
Pepper (Sweet)
Local Crops in Portfolio
  • Spider plant
  • Hairy nightshade
  • Ethiopian mustard
  • Crotalaria
  • Amaranth
Leading Practices

    East African Seed demonstrates a leading use of information and communications technology (ICT) in its business activities. The company uses the SENRI app, developed by Africa Incubator Ltd, to track and manage participation in demonstrations and field training, and reports on this and other smallholder-related targets at monthly board meetings. The company also supplies its variety information to Mbegu Choice, a web platform hosted by the Seed Trade Association of Kenya that has reached an estimated 38,000 farmers since 2015, and provides collaborative voice-based agronomic training via mobile interaction with the company Farming Tech.

    The company recognizes the value of unique indigenous food crops to regional communities and promotes and offers technical knowledge on how to produce these crops on a larger scale. Research and commercialization have been undertaken on a range of local crops, including hairy nightshade, crotalaria, spider plant, Ethiopian mustard and African eggplant.

    The company runs customer satisfaction surveys to help inform its breeding program and integrates this feedback into the development of traits specific to the needs of smallholders. This includes tackling fall armyworm and maize lethal necrosis, a major regional pest and disease respectively, developing dry beans with high iron content for improved nutritional value and hairy nightshade varieties with low acid content to meet local cultural preferences.

    In the countries where the company has branches (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), it utilizes a multi-layered sales network to ensure its distribution channels reach the remotest areas. Working through office support, sales agronomists and field promoters, and using radio campaigns and ICT platforms to raise awareness, the company states that it satisfies over 90% of demand through this network. In Kenya, its home market, the company engages 300 agro-dealers who in turn support a network of 15,000 smaller stockists to ensure seed availability and accessibility for remote smallholder farmers.

    Through its network of extension staff, East African Seed offers training tailored to the needs of individual smallholders. In addition to employing 44 staff in Kenya, 25 in Tanzania and 20 in Uganda, three core markets, the company has staff in Burundi, Rwanda and Zambia as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa.

Areas for Improvement

    East African Seed states that it has codes of business conduct in place that adhere to national laws, including Kenyan labor laws. These govern its operations, including seed production activities. The company is encouraged to publicly disclose these codes to increase corporate accountability and governance.

    The company reports collaborating with national regulators and stakeholders in the industry to discourage the use of farm-saved seed. It is encouraged to disclose the details of such collaborations, taking into consideration the differing practices of smallholder farmers in the region.

Notable Findings

    East African Seed collaborates with the Uganda Seed Trade Association, Uganda National Agro-Input Dealers Association and CropLife International in a scheme to tackle the prevalent issue of counterfeit seed. The partnership disseminates information and advice to raise awareness among stakeholders in the agricultural sector.

    The company assigns responsibility at the CEO level for the implementation of policies and targets related to access to seeds for smallholder farmers, allocates a diverse range of financial and non-financial resources and tracks progress toward its annual target to reach 500,000 smallholders.

    The company is also involved in aiding a variety of public (regional/national/international) gene banks to conserve germplasm of crops grown in index countries through its active collaborations.

    The company has seed production locations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and has plans to expand these activities into Zambia and Rwanda in 2019.

    In March 2017, East African Seed became ISO 9001/2008 certified. The company further enhances the robustness of its quality management systems by certifying every lot of seed sold through the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).

    Through Agriscope, the company sells agrochemicals and crop nutrition products. It reports actively championing the objective of improving productivity per unit area, conducting training on agrochemical product stewardship to ensure smallholder customers sustainably produce healthy crops.

    In South Sudan, East African Seed states that it works with non-governmental organizations and distributors to reach smallholder farmers. The company aims to bring its services to this country by opening a local office in Juba in the coming years, if the political situation allows. Moreover, the company sells seed in Djibouti and Eritrea as well as in Nigeria, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The company tailors its packages for smallholder farmer suitability, offering varieties in quantities as small as 2g, and also offers one-day delivery services to Kenyan agro-dealers via couriers. East African Seed also collaborates with leading NGOs, such as the One Acre Fund, on initiatives to help the affordability of inputs for smallholder customers.

    The company estimates that by 2017 around 1 million smallholder farmers had received company agronomic training and that 60% of the beneficiaries were women.

    East African Seed uses partnerships along the food value chain to link smallholder producers to output markets. In Kenya, the company partners with East African Breweries on sorghum, and in Uganda with the Palladium Group on sunflower and groundnut.