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There is an unprecedented amount of activity underway in the African seed sector today, with new companies starting up across the continent and farmers clamoring for more productive crop varieties, particularly those that can help them cope with the stresses of climate change.

The intense focus on seed production in Africa helps explain why there was such a high level of media and industry interest during the launch of The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), a project developed by Cornell University’s International Institute for Food, with support from Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), Market Matters Inc. and Kenya Markets Trust.

TASAI, the first initiative dedicated solely to monitoring the state of Africa’s rapidly evolving seed sector, debuted by issuing detailed scorecards on the state of seed development and distribution in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe,

“We’ve known for a long time that a key reason yields on African farms lag far behind even those in other developing countries is that African farmers often lack access to improved varieties of staple crops such as maize, cow peas and sorghum,” said Ed Mabaya, Associate Director of CIIFAD and head of the TASAI project. “We think that by tracking indicators along the seed delivery chain—like the number of crop breeders, varieties released, industry competitiveness, availability of seed in small packages, and quality of the seed policy framework—investors and policymakers can target choke points that are impeding the flow of seeds to smallholder farmers.”

Coverage appeared in top-tier international media outlets, including BBC Online (UK), Agence France-Presse,Xinhua (China), Voice of America and CCTV-Africa, as well as local African outlets, including NTV, East African (Kenya), Sentinel (Zimbabwe) and Standard (Kenya).

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Delegates present at the TASAI launch. Photo Credit: Agri-Experience

Delegates present at the TASAI launch.
Photo Credit: Agri-Experience

There is an unprecedented amount of activity underway in the African seed sector today, with new companies starting up across the continent and farmers clamoring for more productive crop varieties, particularly those that can help them cope with the stresses of climate change.

The intense focus on seed production in Africa helps explain why there was such a high level of media and industry interest during the launch of The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), a project developed by Cornell University’s International Institute for Food, with support from Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), Market Matters Inc. and Kenya Markets Trust.

TASAI, the first initiative dedicated solely to monitoring the state of Africa’s rapidly evolving seed sector, debuted by issuing detailed scorecards on the state of seed development and distribution in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe,

“We’ve known for a long time that a key reason yields on African farms lag far behind even those in other developing countries is that African farmers often lack access to improved varieties of staple crops such as maize, cow peas and sorghum,” said Ed Mabaya, Associate Director of CIIFAD and head of the TASAI project. “We think that by tracking indicators along the seed delivery chain—like the number of crop breeders, varieties released, industry competitiveness, availability of seed in small packages, and quality of the seed policy framework—investors and policymakers can target choke points that are impeding the flow of seeds to smallholder farmers.”

Coverage appeared in top-tier international media outlets, including BBC Online (UK), Agence France-Presse, Xinhua (China), Voice of America and CCTV-Africa, as well as local African outlets, including NTV, East African (Kenya), Sentinel (Zimbabwe) and Standard (Kenya).