There have been quite a number of discussions on the need to advance agriculture innovations and technologies that spark an increase in food production as well as preserve the environment.
In the interest of scaling up this agenda, the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK) invited delegates involved in the seed industry including government officials, development partners, research institutions, the agrochemical industry, processors, machinery suppliers, agro-dealers, farmers, and media to the 2022 STAK Annual Conference, which was held at Loresho, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) headquarters.
On 30th, November 2022, FSPN Africa was able to catch up on the closing day of the conference which was presided over by the PS Livestock Development Hon Harry Kimtai. He was accompanied by Director General KALRO and other senior government officials.
The theme of the two-day conference was, “Building resilient agricultural systems for improved livelihood and environmental sustainability.”
We were excited to interact with some of the seed companies, and agro-dealers, and shared more on pertinent issues affecting the seed value chain and legal frameworks that regulate seeds distribution and usage. There are new agricultural developments in place yet to be adopted by farmers even as we face the backdrop of numerous impacts of climate change this year.
New seeds available
To start with, research institutions and seed companies have developed seeds and planting materials that can tolerate drought and diseases as well as have tenfold yield capacity, high maturity rates of 2.5 to 3 months, high yields, and wide regional adaptations.
The newly developed products are not tied to maize alone. Green grams, beans, sorghum, potatoes, cassava, fruits, and vegetables are also available to meet different farmers’ specific needs.
This is actually giving farmers an open opportunity to access seeds with vigorous performance, uniformity in growth, excellent resistance to diseases, and superior quality that can compete well in the market spaces.
Planting disease-free seeds will help farmers cut down costs associated with disease management, and lower pesticides and/or insecticide use which will in turn save on farmers’ pockets, promote food safety and improve nutrition outcomes.
Additionally, there are new bean seed varieties with improved Biological Value that makes them more nutritious and the ability to cause a well-known side effect, flatulence is suppressed. Nyota variety has been touted to be more productive, less prone to diseases and cooks in 30 minutes.
Western Seed Company explains that drought-resistant maize leaves typically roll under to slow down the growth rate. The seeds are also developed under tough conditions that imitate low-rainfed environments and then crossbred with high-yielding varieties to improve performance upon planting. Leaves arrangements are designed in a way that assists the maize to collect dew or water and channel it to the root areas to increase moisture around the root area, which increases the survival of maize.
Other than producing drought-resistant varieties, Maize seed companies have also designed seeds for green(for roasting/boiling have improved tastes) and dry(for processing flour) consumption markets, a technology that was applauded by one of the farmers in attendance. It has helped him as a farmer make seasoned breakthroughs in the maize farming journey.
Knowledge of Early maturity seeds helps him plant up to three times a year. Two seasons is for green maize while one season is for dry maize market.
Grafting and tissue culture
These technologies are already in place for fruits and other vegetative plants to increase yields while at the same time demonstrating the ability to resist diseases. The challenge on the table is to facilitate farmers’ access to these planting materials. We are committing to settling this particular challenge, particularly to our smallholder fruit farmers in banana and pawpaw value chains to increase the economic viability of farming and uplift their living standards.
“What are certified seeds or planting materials?”
We posed this question to Freshcrop Limited and they were able to clarify it for the sake of understanding better.
“Certified seeds are free from diseases and have demonstrated high-yielding capability in field trials. The process of developing the seeds/planting materials involves a thorough examination of sources(should be free from diseases), controls of the environment where propagation or planting is done(to achieve desired quality), and monitoring from planting, harvesting, storage, packaging to transportation, which prevents contamination. They must be approved by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(KEPHIS) as safe for use.”
Farmers should be able to check for the KEPHIS logo as a trademark for the certified seeds. Contact details have also been attached to assist farmers to confirm if the seeds are genuine. Farmers are also advised to be checking expiry dates to avoid sowing or planting seeds that have reduced germination potential.
For the case of Irish potatoes, farmers need to be keen on the size of the planting seed they should be keen on the seed class and seed size grade.
There was much for farmers to learn when it came to acquiring certified planting inputs, safety precautions during the application of agrochemicals, and emergency measures to take in case of pesticide poisoning. “When farmers have holistic knowledge on agrochemical safety it significantly helps them to enhance food safety, lower or prevent the use of counterfeit products that might be a nuisance to the environment, and life-threatening.” Agrochemical Association of Kenya accounts.
The conference was also looking at scaling Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) that will purposely accelerate the growth of Kenya’s Recycling Ecosystem, leading to a Circular Economy that will protect our natural environment & future generations.
PRO will oversee member companies tracing packaging materials and retrieving them from end-users: farmers, to either incinerate them, sterilize them for reuse, or molten them into other valuable products like furniture.
This stems from the fact that most farmers use fertilizer packaging materials as home containers or to store their harvest, which pre-exposes them to chemical residues.
Wrapping it up
Through Digital Agriculture Africa(DAA) were are already working to ensure smallholder farmers have access to certified seeds and other farm inputs and extension assistance that will intensify crop yields, improve household food and nutrition security, and expand income generation from the sale of surplus food.
Agro dealers, research institutions, and seed companies need long-standing partnerships that will enable agricultural technologies to reach the small-scale farmers who are the ultimate beneficiaries and the agents of building resilience in agriculture systems. At FSPN Africa we are open to such partnerships that will timely augment the contribution of smallholder farmers toward ending hunger, and poverty and fixing long-lasting environmental viability.