Index companies operating in Western and Central Africa demonstrate weak commitments to and performance in areas related to intellectual property (IP). More than half of the companies have a position on farm-saved seed, several of them expressing concern that this practice can potentially harm smallholder farmer productivity.
This measurement area seeks to clarify and assess the way companies handle their IP, both plant variety rights and patents, in index countries and whether this allows for further use in breeding by others and on-farm seed saving by smallholder farmers.
The majority of index companies operating in the region, including all the companies headquartered in the region, demonstrate weak commitments to IP such as the breeders’ exemption and patents. This is largely attributed to the lack of investments in breeding activities since 13 companies rely on the breeding activities of other companies or research institutes.
Exceptions are global companies Corteva Agriscience, Monsanto and Syngenta, which disclose strong, globally relevant positions on IP, which is evident in the sale of protected seed varieties in Western and Central Africa.
Index companies are divided over the practice of farm-saved seed. Ten companies accept the practice but four do not support this practice.
Global companies such as East-West Seed, Corteva Agriscience and Syngenta recognize the practice and allow it for private and non-commercial use. Monsanto, on the other hand, states that when farmers buy its seed, they sign an agreement not to save and replant the seed, although it is not clear to what extent this agreement is enforced in index countries. Pop Vriend Seeds supports the practice of farm-saved seed in principal, however notes that this practice may impact the quality of seed.
In the region, the practice of saving seed for use from year to year is prevalent. Farm-saved seed usually loses purity and quality with every use, with an accompanying effect on crop productivity. Therefore, several companies express concern about this practice and warn against it.
Regional companies such as Semagri and Tropicasem and global company Technisem, all part of the Novalliance, acknowledge the practice but encourage farmers to purchase seed every season. SOPROSA states that the crops produced using company varieties are primarily for private consumption, and its smallholder customers buy new seed after three seasons. BILOHF and Value Seeds state that farmers who save their seed for the next season often do not realize the benefits of using quality seed of improved varieties such as increased yields and tolerance and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. Further, Value Seeds provides training to farmers to demonstrate the benefits of using quality seed every season. Maslaha Seeds, with hybrid maize in their portfolio, report that provision of hybrid seed will enable farmers to understand the difference between using new seed every season and using farm-saved seed. Three regional companies actively discourage the use of farm-saved seed. Da-Allgreen Seeds discourages farmers from saving and reusing seed by continuously promoting the use of improved seed. Faso Kaba emphasizes that it is against the practice of farm-saved seed and that seed should be renewed frequently, and SEDAB states that smallholder farmers should rely on certified seed of good quality to maximize production.