Researchers under The African Seed Access Index have recommended more efforts to involve private sector in introduction and development of improved seeds, seeds availability as well as put in place mechanisms to create more seeds access from farmers.
The index by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa seeks to promote the establishment and maintenance of enabling environments for competitive seed systems serving African farmers.
The study which measures the top four grain and legume crops; maize, bean, wheat, soya bean was conducted in 21 African countries and was completed earlier this year in Rwanda.
It shows that in Rwanda, satisfaction with availability of basic maize seeds is at 73 per cent, 69 per cent with bean seeds, 70 per cent with wheat and 78 per cent with soya while satisfaction with regards to efforts to stamp out fake seeds is at 72 per cent.
But the index indicates that the use of improved seeds is not yet at satisfactory levels.
Under the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), the use of improved seeds has risen from 3 per cent in 2006 to 12.5 per cent in 2018 in small scale farms and 53.1 per cent for large scale farmers.
The analysis highlights that between 2000 and 2017, at least 33 maize varieties were released but 55 per cent of them were sold, 43 bean varieties were produced of which 7 per cent were sold, five wheat varieties of which 60 per cent were sold while 12 soya bean varieties of which 33 per cent were sold.
Maize is one of the most commercialized seeds according to the researcher Gervais Ngerero Nkuriza.
Total production of priority crops grew by more 54 per cent between 2013 and 2018.
Despite the growth in agricultural production with land use consolidation that increased from 28,016 ha in 2008 to750,122 ha in 2018, the yield gap is still high at 60.7 per cent for maize, 46 per cent for wheat, 36.5 per cent for rice, 71.7 per cent for bean and 76.4 per cent for Irish potato.
The performance of national seed trade association is at 48 per cent while seed producers’ satisfaction with agro-dealer network is at 51 per cent.
There are 1,460 agro-dealer sale points and 15 active seed companies for the 4 crops in Rwanda.
“Bean and soya bean faced very low level of commercialization of released varieties .This is due to direct dissemination of RAB bean research to farmers without going through seed multipliers,” he said in a researcher paper.
According to Charles Murekezi, Director General for Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, low private sector investment and involvement in seeds variety development, seed production and multiplication; seed processing, marketing and distribution to farmers.
“We have a strategy to develop and release new high performing varieties, engagement of the private sector in the production and marketing of certified seeds. There are 655 professional seed multipliers,” he said.
Promoting the demand
He noted that there is need to demonstrate the benefits of using quality seed and right varieties through demonstration and Farmers Field School (FFS) as approaches to create and promote demand among farmers.
”About 0.01 ha sized demo plots were established for every village in 2019 season B, making it 7,549 demo plots country wide. This will increase farmers’ awareness and marketing of these new locally developed varieties,” he said.
He added that it has to involve training seed companies and agro-dealers on seed marketing, promoting and facilitating contract farming arrangements and link farmers to financial institutions and agriculture insurance services as well.
The index says Rwanda has highest ratio of agricultural extension officers to farming households and that is one officer for every 124 farming households.
There are 16,966 extension officers across the country of which 14,200 are farmer promoters, 2,300 Farmer Field School facilitators and 466 agricultural Board Officers.
In order to bridge the current yield gap, he said, many interventions including promotion of the use of organic and inorganic fertilizers, use of improved seeds and the provision of effective advisory services are recommended.
Promotion of improved seeds, he said, involves breeding new suitable and high yielding varieties, strengthening local seed production and supply as well as enhancing quality control.
This, he said, requires strengthening research for variety development and release to ensure regular supply of high yielding varieties, establish a seed production system led by the private sector and avoid seed production failures caused by the effects of climate change.
Imported seeds cost government betwee Rwf4 Billion and Rwf5.5 Billion annually especially for hybrid maize, wheat and soybean.
Relying on imports has resulted in many negative implications such as delays in seed delivery leading to late planting and new pests and diseases