May 9, 2013
At a World Bank-sponsored seed systems seminar in Washington, DC on May 2, Lloyd Le Page, CEO of Iowa-based Heartland Global, Inc., described the importance of providing African farmers with a more reliable source of locally adapted seed through strong African seed businesses, represented by robust national and regional seed industry groups such as the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA). The private sector has been key to improving diversity and availability of new varieties, and would benefit from a more enabling policy and business environment. Efforts should include incentives and flexible financing products that support the nascent African seed sector. In comparison, India’s seed industry has flourished under policy and regulatory reforms in the 1980’s and 90’s that made way for a more competitive environment, and changed national government’s role from a competitor to an enabler.
AFSTA, a membership body representing 26 national seed associations and over 84 seed company and stakeholder members, has a long record of sustained, on-the-ground presence in addressing seed issues through its member associations, as well as directly with regional and international actors. Speaking on behalf of the AFSTA Secretary General, Mr. Le Page outlined the current challenges and constraints inhibiting successful growth of the seed industry. Obstacles identified by member seed associations in an EU-funded national stakeholder dialogue included lack of effective implementation of existing regional seed regulatory harmonization agreements, seed technical and business management capacity, access to capital, and lack of coordination among donor and country seed initiatives, among others. Participants stressed the need to continue pursuing reforms on seed policy, laws and the implementation of regulations that enable the flow of germplasm across borders and along African agro-ecozones. Mr. Le Page noted that solutions are emerging through a public-private partnership between the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and AFSTA, known as the Alliance for the Seed Industry in East and Southern Africa (ASIESA), designed with USAID support, and now seeking funding from donors and partners.
During the May 2 seminar, seed specialists and representatives from the World Bank Group, as well as other actors from USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR, FAO, AGRA, and African and Indian private sector, civil society and land grant universities discussed the types of interventions, opportunities and challenges that exist in Africa’s seed sector. According to representatives present, the World Bank Group contributed more than US$500 million to the seed sector between 2007-2012, but this largely went to public initiatives, and there was a need to improve on outcomes. The majority of World Bank’s global seed interventions have gone toward Africa, especially in the form of emergency lending to the public sector post the 2008 food crises.
Human capacity within seed companies, the associations that represent them, and government seed regulatory authorities are also critical to a healthy seed sector. Although training breeders is a critical need, other business and production related training is just as important in the sector. Partnerships in the distribution chain such as local distributors and agro-dealer networks, as well as demonstrations with customers, are critical in improving supply and demand for high quality seed. Community-based seed production has a role in areas and crops that are under-served by seed companies at present, and innovative partnerships with these systems as part of commercial supply chains could provide a win-win situation for all.
Concluding his remarks, Mr. Le Page delivered a message from the Nairobi-based Secretary General, Mr. Justin Rakotoarisaona, calling upon seed actors across all sectors to come together to support the industry across the continent, and to develop rational business-led strategies around these recommendations. AFSTA is recognized by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and COMESA as the apex seed industry organization and is well positioned to play a leading role in coordinating efforts in the sector.
Click here to see the full outline of Mr. Le Page’s presentation.
Heartland Global, Inc. is a community development business headquartered in Iowa, USA and with operations in Africa and Asia. Heartland Global’s vision is to deliver value-chain and technology innovations that provide lasting economic and livelihood growth, helping communities solve their own needs sustainably. Heartland Global’s activities focus primarily on farming, agri-business and food value chain investments and creating business to business relationships.
Heartland Global actively seeks the best seed solutions for our customers, and we believe in the critical need for collaboration at all levels to ensure that companies and farmers have access to the right seeds for their environment. To that end, we foster innovative partnerships that have the ability to accelerate the development and delivery of improved seed technology and locally adapted products. We also conduct local trials, demonstrations and analysis to ensure the value of the solutions we provide to our clients. In sum, we believe that seed innovation and technology delivery must be supported by holistic solutions that provide knowledge in use, improved market access and ongoing support which go beyond a single project’s lifespan.
For more information on Heartland Global, Inc. go to www.heartland-global.com.