The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $8.4 million in an initial five-year investment in the first Early Generation (Foundation) Seed Production Entity in sub-Saharan Africa.
Known as QualiBasic Seed, the entity established by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Low access and use of poor quality foundation seed by companies result in low crop yields and crop failure affecting sustainable food production and costing the continent a valuable development opportunity.
QualiBasic Seed will address the acute technical, infrastructural and financial challenges seed companies face in the maintenance, multiplication and timely supply of quality foundation seed by supplying high quality foundation seed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the continent, overall improving farm productivity.
According to the AATF Executive Director Dr.Denis Kyatere 80 per cent of SME seed companies who can reach more than 60 per cent of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa experience these challenges.
AATF is a non-profit organization that seeks innovative partnerships and effective stewardship to access, develop, adapt and deliver agricultural technologies for sustainable use by smallholder farmers along the entire value chain in sub-Saharan Africa.
While expressing the Foundation’s pleasure at partnering with AATF, Enock Chikava, Deputy Director, Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation acknowledged the huge donor investments in global public crop improvement programs for the benefit of African farmers.
“These breeding programs have released high yielding and very adaptable crop varieties, for example, maize hybrids, that offer high productivity opportunities. However, the benefits of these products are yet to be realized by smallholder farmers due to delayed seed production in some cases and low quality seed in others,” Chikava added.
QualiBasic will be set up as a centralized production system that AATF will establish and nurture into a professional fully-fledged, independent and sustainable private sector-driven business within five years.
Its operations will start with foundation seed for maize in East and Southern Africa. At full functionality, it will serve other cereals and legumes across SSA.
QualiBasic will help smallholder farmers, especially women, realize the full genetic gains of climate resilient crop varieties developed through public research and development.
Three foundation seed production hubs with seed processing and storage facilities will be established in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa by the second and third year of operations to timely meet demand for products and avoid lengthy delays in seed movements.
Similar models to QualiBasic have been successful in the United States of America and India.
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