Kenyan company East African Seed and Seed Co., two homegrown African seed companies, top the 2019 Access to Seeds Index for Eastern and Southern Africa, for playing a key role in raising smallholder farmer productivity, reports the Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation. These companies have grown their activities in the African region since the first index was published in 2016.
Seed Co, originally from Zimbabwe but now headquartered in South Africa, is the African seed company with the most extensive breeding, production and sales network, and the widest geographic reach in agronomic training. Two African seed companies at the top of the ranking is no surprise, given their deeper understanding of the region and the challenges smallholder farmers face. It shows also that these relatively small seed companies are ahead of larger multinational seed companies in integrating smallholder farmers into their business models.
Maize dominates breeding programs in the region as twice as many companies have active breeding programs for maize as for other important crops, such as dry beans, soybean and tomato. This raises concerns about the ability of smallholder farmers to access a broad range of modern varieties of other important food crops, and in turn contribute to achieving sustainable food systems and healthy and diverse diets.
The Access to Seeds Index 2019 is one of the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) benchmarks published by the World Benchmarking Alliance. The alliance was launched in September 2018 during the UN General Assembly in New York. The Access to Seeds Index was established with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Government of the Netherlands. The Access to Seeds Index for Eastern and Southern Africa focuses on 22 leading seed companies in this region.
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