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Market-driven seed system model boosts availability of quality and climate resilient rice seeds

Food supply was typically disrupted by imposed travel restrictions and closure of markets for both inputs and products to contain the spread of COVID-19. Seed supply was identified as a critical part of the rice value chain that was under threat from COVID-19 restrictions. Consequently, in 2021, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provided funds for the 2-year ‘COVID-19 response rice seed’ (CORIS) project implemented by AfricaRice.

The CORIS project which aimed to produce certified seeds of market driven and climate resilient varieties in Burkina Faso, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria has demonstrated that the model increases availability and accessibility of improved rice seeds by smallholder rice farmers in Africa. CORIS was delivered through 37 members of the Consortium of Rice Seed Enterprises and Millers (COSEM-Riz) in the five target countries. In addition, strategic partnerships between research and development organization (AfricaRice and the Green Innovation Centers in the five target countries) and the public sector (National Agricultural Research Institutes and National Seed Certification Agencies in the five target countries) were instrumental in the delivery of the project outputs.

By the end of the project in December 2022, CORIS had produced and supplied 24.8 t of breeder seed, 934 t of foundation seed and 28,167 t of certified seed. This is a significant gain because the seeds were of high quality and of climate resilient compared to previous years where most seeds were paddy from previous harvest of the farmers or neighbouring farmer[1]. Seed companies had easy access to breeder and foundation seeds from AfricaRice and NARIs to produce certified seeds. Certified seeds were then sold or supplied to farmers who were either operating individually or contracted by the seed enterprises or other rice processing companies.

CORIS also enhanced the capacity of the seed companies through the supply of mechanical equipment (60 rice harvesters, 37 ASI thresher–cleaner, 185 grain moisture meter and 768,400 hermetic seed storage bags), knowledge products (720,000 8-pager Good Agricultural Practice flyers) and digital support (ICT-based Agricultural Management and Monitoring tool). This reduced drudgery in seed production, increase the quality and shelf-life of seeds and seed traceability.

By the end of 2022, the project had directly benefited 11,310 lead seed producers who were directly involved in the production of the different categories of seeds with 85.6% being youths and 10% female. In total, an estimated 845,494 seed producers, field workers and their respective families benefited from the production of the three categories of seeds. They benefit was mainly in the form of seed sale produced or from the provision of labour for different seed production and storage operations. Seed sales for example generated € 27.6 million thus significantly increasing the revenue of seed value chain actors who were mostly youths.

With an average seeding rate of 80 kg per hectare (estimated using broadcasting seeding method commonly practiced in the region), some 360,000 hectare of paddy fields will be planted in 2023. Farmers who plant these improved varieties will benefit from their resilience to different stresses such as drought, submergence, salinity, and heat stresses with improvement in yield from 2.5 to 4 ton per hectare.

The indirect beneficiaries account to 140,000 value chain actors (input suppliers, processors, and certification agencies) and 1.8 million paddy producers, farm workers and consumers. These beneficiaries benefited from selling their products (fertilizer, paddy, milled rice, and rice milling by products) and service (labour, mechanical, financial and advisory) to the project actors during the project and afterwards thus guarantying their revenues. By extrapolation, the seeds produced should effectively deliver 475,200 t of milled rice as a foreseen outcome and thus contributing to food and nutrition security in the target countries. Enhancing the efficiency of the National Seed Certification Agencies and contractual arrangement with seed off-takers and seed producers is critical for sustainability of rice seed system in Africa.

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[1] Mapiemfu, D. L., et al. "Physical rice grain quality as affected by biophysical factors and pre-harvest practices." International Journal of Plant Production 11.4 (2017): 561-576.

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