The role and challenges of the private seed sector in developing and disseminating climate-smart crop varieties in Eastern and Southern Africa
This article (PDF) by Springer discusses the growth of the private seed sector since the seed industry in Eastern and Souther Africa (ESA) was deregulated, the importance of public-private partnerships in driving genetic gains for climate-smart (CS) traits, and the importance of developing a favourable regional regulatory environment that incentivises the private sector to rapidly scale out CS crop varieties. Addressing climate change in ESA requires accelerated development and dissemination of crop varieties with CS traits over the coming decades. However, investment in crop improvement and rates of variety turnover are currently extremely low in the region. Smallholder farmers, who generate the bulk of agricultural output continue to cultivate old crop varieties that lack CS traits, such as drought tolerance and resistance to new and emerging pests and diseases. The emerging private seed sector in ESA provides a significant opportunity to develop partnerships with established public plant breeding programmes, to accelerate the development of improved varieties with CS traits and their subsequent distribution through scalable, certified seed systems. Some 50% of yield gains in most global regions are commonly attributed to genetic gains made through plant breeding. Providing smallholder farmers in ESA with access to the latest, improved germplasm can therefore play a major role in adapting agricultural systems in ESA to CC. The promotion of an enabling regulatory environment for the release and adoption of improved varieties with CS traits will further stimulate private sector interest and investment. This is particularly applicable to the smallholder maize seed market, which is the primary basis for the growth of the emerging seed industry and the foundation of regional food security in ESA.
This article is a chapter of the book ‘The climate-smart agriculture papers‘.