Seed Equal Initiative empowering Africa legume seed producers on market demand-driven seed production business models and ICT tools

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“We can change Africa through legumes!”, is what Jean Claude Rubyogo, Leader of the Bean Programme and Director of the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) at the Alliance of Bioversity and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (AB-CIAT), said at a recent meeting in Nairobi. His inspiring message was heard by 29 seed producers at a workshop on market demand-driven seed production business model and ICT tools that was organized by the CGIAR Seed Equal Research Initiative held in early August. Rubyogo, who also leads the work package for Legume Seed Systems under the Seed Equal Initiative and Lucky Omoigui, a seed system expert from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) used the occasion to emphasize the importance of bean, cowpea, and soybean seed production and trade in Eastern, Southern, and Western Africa to advance agricultural development, create enterprise opportunities, and improve livelihoods.

Participants at the workshop—all drawn from public and private legume seed producers in AB-CIAT and IITA Africa network of legume seed value chain actors—learned how to use tools such as cost-benefit analysis and demand forecasting for seed production, explored potential business funding opportunities, and tested ICT tools for tracking variety adoption.

Participants also gained insights from Chris Ojiewo, the lead of the Seed Equal Initiative and Strategic Partnerships and Seed Systems Lead for the Dryland Crops at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), who spoke extensively on how to improve seed systems to deliver genetic gain to farmers and ensure the uptake of newly released public-bred varieties. His remarks were complemented by guidance from Ajay Panchbhai, Regional Breeding, Seed Systems and Product Management Lead – Africa from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) who is also Co-leading the work package on Partnerships and Capacity Building in the Seed Equal initiative.

Highlights of the workshop included extensive discussions with participants on the importance of a private sector led multi-stakeholder platform to improve access to information, the need to engage policymakers in strengthening markets for legumes and legume seed, and the critical importance of engaging women and youth in seed production and enterprise development.

This was augmented by conversations around the important linkages between breeding, on the one hand, and seed marketing, on the other hand—a conversation highlighted by CGIAR’s own partnership between its Seed Equal and Accelerated Breeding Research initiatives that aim to accelerate the release and distribution of farmer-preferred and climate-resilient legume varieties.

The workshop concluded with a roadmap for an annual planning meeting led by multi-stakeholders in continuing the discussion on how to improve an off-taker demand-led legume seed systems in Africa.

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