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New seed index encourages competition in Africa

A new index — African Seed Access Index (TASAI) — has been developed to measure seed development and distribution to African farmers

TASAI is the first initiative of its kind, issuing detailed scorecards on Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Developed by Cornell University’s International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), Market Matters and the Emerging Markets Program, the index scores countries on research and development, industry competitiveness, service to smallholder farmers, seed policy and regulation and institutional support.

Ed Mabaya, assistant director of CIIFAD and head of the TASAI project, said, “We have known for a long time that a key reason yields on African farms lag far behind even those in other developing countries is that African farmers often lack access to improved varieties of staple crops such as maize, cowpea and sorghum.

“We think that by tracking indicators along the seed delivery chain like the number of crop breeders, varieties released, industry competitiveness, availability of seed in small packages and quality of the seed policy framework, investors and policymakers can target choke points that are impeding the flow of seeds to smallholder farmers.”

Assessment of a total of 16 indicators revealed ‘uneven progress’ in the countries covered with Kenya scoring highly for its policies but failing down on its efforts to purge fake seeds and South Africa excelling in competitiveness but scoring low in their provision of smaller seed quantities.

TASAI is based on research by local experts and will be updated annually with four additional countries to be added later this year and the index expected to cover more than 20 countries within the next two years.