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East-West Seed Company Ltd (East-West Seed) was founded in 1982 in the Philippines, with a mission to improve the income of farmers through high-quality vegetable seed. It led the 2016 Access to Seeds Global Index for vegetable seed companies as well as the Regional Index for Eastern Africa. The majority of the company’s customers are smallholder farmers. Its portfolio contains over 900 hybrid and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs). Now headquartered in Thailand, East-West Seed has breeding and sales activities throughout Eastern and Southern Africa. In 2015, the company set up Knowledge Transfer, a foundation that seeks to increase the income of smallholder vegetable farmers by sharing the knowledge and skills needed to improve their productivity.DownloadCompany
East-West Seed ranks third in the Eastern and Southern Africa Index, dropping two places from 2016. It performs well in nearly all measurement areas, with a variety of programs, initiatives and projects designed to improve access to seeds for smallholder farmers. It has distribution channels in many index countries in which it makes a large proportion of its vegetable seed portfolio available, resulting in a high score in Marketing & Sales. In Research & Development, the company’s breeding program in Tanzania develops improved varieties of local crops. The company could improve its score in Capacity Building by extending the scope of its activities. The Knowledge Transfer foundation currently carries out extension in two of the 13 countries where the company is present, Tanzania and Uganda, and lacks programs that explicitly address the needs of women and young farmers. The company has corporate-wide policies relating to Intellectual Property, for which it leads the index.
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East-West Seed leads the index in Intellectual Property, with company-wide commitments related to farm-saved seed and the breeders’ exemption that are favorable to the needs and practices of smallholder farmers. It also demonstrates robust market segmentation strategies, adjusting its pricing in different regional markets to local growing conditions, prevailing pests and diseases, desired traits and other smallholder-related preferences and needs.
The company has a breeding program in Tanzania that focuses on nine local crops, including African eggplant and hairy nightshade. Recent efforts largely focus on developing improved OPVs of various African leafy vegetables, such as amaranth.
Smallholder farmers produce 95% of the company’s seed in Tanzania, reinforcing it’s corporate commitment to enhance the productivity of smallholder seed producers.
In Eastern Africa, the company’s trains both farmers and agro-dealers on the proper use of pesticides as well as appropriate application of fertilizers. During promotional demonstrations, farmers are taught about the right fertilizers to use at every stage. Both farmers and agro-dealers are taught about different diseases and how to use pesticides safely to treat them.
East-West Seed has a breeding program in the region that focuses on the development of local vegetable crops. Building on these activities as well as its experience in its breeding programs outside Africa, the company is encouraged to broaden the scope of this program and to invest in training of local plant breeders to enhance local breeding capacities.
The company is encouraged to further develop its capacity building programs in the region, leveraging the knowledge and experience gained in Tanzania and Uganda through its Knowledge Transfer foundation to expand into other index countries.
With a smallholder-centric business model, East-West Seed reports that smallholder farmers make up 98% of the company’s customers in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In Ethiopia, East-West Seed partners with the Fair Planet foundation. Alongside global peers Syngenta, Limagrain, Enza Zaden and Bayer, the company aims to increase food security and provide new economic opportunities for African smallholder farmers by making high-quality vegetable seed, suited to local conditions, accessible and affordable to local farmers.
The company recently established a project in collaboration with Dutch universities on onion germplasm screening for novel sources of resistance to army worm, to address the effects of the pest in the region.
The company conducts variety trials in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa and Zambia.
The company spends the equivalent of 8% of its seed sales on field demonstrations and related marketing campaigns, making this the core of its marketing strategy. In Tanzania, promotional demonstrations were held under the Seeds of Expertise for the Vegetable Sector of Africa (SEVIA) project, co-organized with Rijk Zwaan and Wageningen University & Research.
The company has established distribution channels in 12 out of the 19 index countries and serves remote areas through individual ‘promoters’. These promoters tour a region or sub-region, meeting farmers along the way. Typically, the company’s distribution channels are structured around agro-dealers and sub-retailers.
The company’s Knowledge Transfer foundation predominantly carries out extension services and capacity building activities, particularly in pre-commercial areas. Knowledge Transfer is active in Tanzania and initiated agronomic training in Uganda in 2017. In Tanzania, the SEVIA project also contributed to capacity building.