Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Monday entered into partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to establish the West African Seed Alliance (WASA).
The Alliance aimed at raising yields and incomes of smallholder farmers in the sub-region by increasing their access to improved, locally adapted varieties of major food crops identified.
It includes the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), to promote a sustainable commercial seed industry focused on ensuring that smallholder farmers in the sub-region had affordable, timely and reliable access to good quality seeds and planting materials.
Signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of AGRA, its President Dr Namanga Ngongi, said WASA being implemented by the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), would work closely with West African governments and regional organisations to implement policies that would encourage private sector investments in local seed production and stimulate the increase adoption of improved high-quality seed and complementary inputs.
He explained that though USAID support to WASA started in 2007, the MOU was to reinforce the alliance.
AGRA in 2007 initiated a 150 million- dollar programme to import improved varieties of rice, maize, millet, sorghum and other food staples to millions of Africa’s smallholder farmers.
Dr Ngongi noted that there was the need to institute structures to ensure that production of seeds met the required climate of the sub-region and “where irrigation is required, we work with the private sector to meet the production”.
He explained that farmers in the sub-region only cultivated about a hectare to three hectares, and did not use improved seeds of varieties of locally bred materials with the exception of cotton and cocoa.
These farmers, Dr Ngongi said relied on poor quality seeds from previous harvests and crop yields were quiet low and did not often provide enough food for their families let alone having surplus to sell or stored for consumption in future.
Dr Joe DeVries, Director of AGRA’s Seed Programme said the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in West Africa were directly linked to a modernised agriculture, hence, the need for public-private sector partnership to ensure a successful agricultural enterprise.
Mr Bemi Teme, President of Malian Institute of Economic Research alluded to the saying “no seed no yield” and urged WASA to work hard to enrich activities of agricultural institutions.
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