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Dr Denis T. Kyetere, the AATF Executive Director has said that the seed industry plays a critical role in ensuring access to improved agricultural technologies by farmers thereby contributing to agriculture and rural transformation. Speaking at the 14th Africa Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) annual congress held in Tunis, Tunisia in March 2014, Dr Kyetere said that innovative technologies in seed is vital for agribusiness to thrive and to contribute to access to food. As such he said, commercial interests in seed business should be encouraged.
Access to technology occurs at two levels, he said. “One is when they are accessed by intermediaries such as scientists, researchers and other value chain players like seed companies for research and development and business growth and the other level is when farmers ultimately access the technologies and are able to plant and produce their own food”.
Smallholder farmers’ access to improved agricultural technologies is key to better food security in Africa. Defining food security he said it assumes availability of food in sufficient quantities -through planting and producing own food or through purchase. He termed seed companies as allies in food security efforts as they facilitate farmers’ access to planting materials in the form of seed. He made a case for the great potential there is for Africa to feed itself, that if exploited would have beneficial spill over effects into the seed business. “The continent has 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land which makes up 60 percent of the global total; It has irrigation potential with only 30 percent of 42.5 million hectares of potential irrigated; there is a ready market for agricultural produce given that Africa’s population is growing and is expected to reach 1 billion by 2030 and the prospects of rapid urbanisation” he said.
To be able to harness the potential Africa has to feed itself, Dr Kyetere emphasised the need to build the capacity of farmers to receive and adopt innovations and change their way of farming and perceptions so as to approach farming as a business. Facilitating better access to inputs and output markets would also create demand for technologies in the form of seed. He also called for building agro-dealer capacity to promote the pathway for marketing and contribute to the seed industry development.
He urged agricultural development partners to work with seed companies in order to enhance food security in areas such as seed production and sales; micro-propagation and tissue culture; seed distribution network development; provision of technologies; farmer education and awareness creation to support technology/seed uptake and farmer input access support through provision of micro-credit facilities.
AATF has a memorandum of understanding with AFSTA which aims to facilitate technology transfer and commercialisation of new crop varieties to contribute to the achievement food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.