Better quality seeds can drastically increase the yields of farmers in Kano, raising their income level. In order to fasten the introduction of improved inputs and contribute to food security in the area, a consortium of Dutch seed companies have launched the ‘Seeds for Change’ (S4C) program, together with the Dutch government. Following the S4C Launch, the consortium will exhibit in the Dutch Vegetable Seeds Pavilion at the Agrofood Expo in the Landmark Centre in Lagos from 26-28 March.
The business case for improved inputs “There are a lot of opportunities to improve the quality and volume of the crops grown in the Kano area,” explained Mr. Mackenzie Masaki, of the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC is the coordinator of the S4C project). Currently most farmers in Kano state in Northern Nigeria use farmer saved seeds and open pollinated seeds for planting. However, there is a business case for switching from low quality farmer saved seeds to buying better quality seeds when one knows how to grow vegetables with these seeds. Therefore, the S4C program will promote the use of biological crop protection and hybrid vegetable seeds to improve yields and provide training on cultivation techniques for 5 vegetable crops i.e. tomato, watermelon, onion, hot and sweet pepper and cabbage.
‘Seeing is believing’
How do you convince a farmer who has been operating in the same way for generations to start using new methods? “Seeing is believing,” explained Mr. Masaki, “We have selected two ‘trial-farms,’ where well-established farmers are going to run trials with the hybrid seeds to ensure we select and introduce the right varieties suitable not only to the climate and growing conditions in the North but also for the market. Parallel to this, we will work with a multiple demonstration farms that will to a large extent
mimic local farmer growing conditions and be utilized as centers of excellence to train farmers on how best to manage hybrid seeds. The demonstration farms will then in turn be linked to model farmers, local farmers with good standing in the society for others to see that it’s possible. We do not only focus on bringing in more seeds, since for certain crops a lot of quality improvement by way of training is possible even without the need of bringing in hybrid-seeds,” explained Mr. Masaki.
Better livelihoods and incomes are the drivers for most farmers. To enable farmers to market their produce “we intend to compliment knowledge and capacity building at farm level with access to markets by working with established traders and retailers.” The benefits of switching to hybrid seeds should trickle down from market all the way to the farm level. Farmers get better and more consistent prices for their products; retailers and traders get consistency in the volume and quality of products and the consumers get good and safe products on the table,” said Mr. Masaki.
The S4C program is a private public partnership (PPP) between the Dutch government through RVO (the Dutch Enterprise Agency) and 6 Dutch companies: Rijk Zwaan, East West Seed, Bakker Brothers, Syngenta, Enza Zaden and Koppert. S4C is being managed by NABC, the Netherlands-African Business Council supported by its local partners WorldVeg, 2SCALE & AfriAgri Products Ltd.
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