BY SAMSON OKWAKOL
Amsterdam, Netherlands–The Access to Seeds Index, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the government of the Netherlands which aims to encourage seed companies to step up their efforts to support smallholder farmer productivity has said it will expand its scope further into Southern Africa.
The second Access to Seeds Index for Eastern & Southern Africa will expand its scope further into Southern Africa. Seven more countries are included and as a result five more companies are included in the ranking.
Sixteen of the twenty-two selected companies originate from the region itself. An interesting finding is the countries with multiple companies represented in the benchmark, including South Africa and Uganda, both with four, and Kenya with three companies.
“By benchmarking seed companies, the index gives credit to companies that show leadership and encourages others to follow their example,” says Ido Verhagen, executive director of the Access to Seeds Index. “It also provides valuable information for governments, research institutes and donors interested in building partnerships with seed companies.”
In 2016 the first Access to Seeds Index for Eastern Africa showed small differences between companies, with the exception of East-West Seed whose performance significantly exceeded its peers because of their smallholder-centric business model. In early 2019, the second Access to Seeds Index for Eastern & Southern Africa will show which seed company is taking the lead now ‘in supporting smallholders in Eastern and Southern Africa’. Twenty-two companies have been nominated; the selection was based on company business models, track record and regional presence. The selection process was overseen by a committee of six experts from the region.
“Smallholder farmers need to not only produce more food, but at the same time adapt their agricultural practices to changing weather conditions caused by climate change. By improving access to quality seeds, seed companies can make a vital contribution in supporting smallholder farmers with overcoming this challenge,” says Mr. Verhagen.
Improving the productivity of smallholder farmers is one of the main targets on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals agenda (SDGs). By measuring the seed industry’s performance, the Access to Seeds Index aims to contribute to achieving these goals.