KELLY NJOMBO, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT is sad that despite success in developing new varieties of beans and groundnuts by the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), over one million farmers still face challenges in accessing improved seed varieties.
Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa said breeders and scientists from ZARI and the Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) have developed a total of 42 varieties of beans and 14 of groundnuts, but farmers are still unable to access them.
Speaking in a speech read for him by ZARI director Moses Mwale during the Zambia national workshop on beans and groundnuts early generation seed (EGS) on yesterday, Mr Shawa said there is need to develop the seed value chain by supplying the commodity to increase yields for local and international markets.
“More than one million farmers grow beans and groundnuts in Zambia, and most small-scale farmers are unable to access improved seed varieties of the two crops due to unsustainable markets.
“[Other challenges are] weak organisational structures, inadequate investments from both private and public sector, and poor sector knowledge management,” Mr Shawa said.
He said ZARI and its partners have since formed the Seed Unit to address challenges of basic and foundation of seed availability across the legume value chain.
Earlier, SCCI chief seeds officer Nathan Phiri said there is need for innovation in addressing various challenges affecting the availability of quality EGS in the seed value chain.
Mr Phiri said SCCI recognises that EGS as a catalyst for improving certified seed delivery to farmers and that there can never be any meaningful seed system for any crop without investing in early seed production.
At the same event, USAID economic office development director Jeremy Boley said increased efficiency, expertise and innovation from the private and public sector engagement will result in tangible benefits including improved infrastructure, greater quantities of EGS and easy access to improved seed varieties among smallholder farmers.
Mr Boley said there is need for strong collaborations among all players including ZARI researchers, SCCI, private seed companies, governmental extension officers and non-governmental organisations.
“There is a key role for the public sector, working with the private to establish an environment that supports investment, technology development,” he said.