Kenya’s overreliance on maize at the expense of other vegetables threatens to increase the rate of undernourishment in the country, a new report has warned.
The study titled “Access to Seeds Index 2019,” 11 companies reported active maize programmes, more than double that of dry beans, soybeans and tomatoes as the next most frequently bred crops with vegetables such as onions, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper and green beans lagging.
It says that dominance of maize breeding should particularly raise concern over crop diversity and adaptability within regional seed systems.
It also raises concern about the ability of smallholder farmers to access a range of modern varieties of other important food crops and in turn, contribute to achieving sustainable food systems and healthy and diverse diets.
Food and Agriculture Organisation says that the number of undernourished people has been on the rise in Southern Africa despite reaching its lowest level in 2010 and it is also increasing once more in Eastern Africa.
Even though climate variability and extremes have been identified as a major reason for the increase, seed systems have a vital role to play in helping smallholder farmers to adapt to climatic challenges.
Notably, field crops and legumes are also bred more frequently than vegetables, with only three of the six specialised vegetable companies demonstrating broad breeding programmes in the region.
“The index reveals that though African seed companies are serving smallholder farmers the reach is too low,” said Sanne Helderman, Senior Research Lead at Access to Seeds Index.