Sowing the seeds of success in West Africa

Seed companies play a key role in enhancing the production and productivity of maize in West Africa as they provide farmers access to higher yielding and more stress-tolerant hybrids and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs).

Seed companies play a key role in enhancing the production and productivity of maize in West Africa as they provide farmers access to higher yielding and more stress-tolerant hybrids and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs).

For the past five years, public and private sector entities have regularly
delivered and disseminated seeds of IITA-improved maize hybrids and OPVs that have been formally released in West African countries (Table 1). The adoption of these hybrids and varieties has helped improve the lives and livelihoods of farmers, traders, and consumers dependent on maize in the region.

Although access to quality seed of improved maize varieties has been of the upswing in recent years, the production and supply of sufficient quantities of early generation seeds (breeder and foundation seeds) still pose a challenge particularly to emerging and small-scale seed companies in West Africa that rely heavily on varieties bred by national agricultural research systems (NARS) and international agricultural research centers. Until such time that policies and scales of production allow for improved efficiencies to address this constraint,public organizations must shoulder part of the responsibility of
providing early generation seeds.

Table 1. Number of IITA germplasm-based maize hybrids and OPVs released by public and private sector entities in West Africa in the last five years.

IITA and partners implementing the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa
(STMA) project —funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through CIMMYT—have been making significant strides. Some of the project’s notable achievements in 2016 include:

  • Identification of seed companies to produce early generation seeds. STMA supported the selection of seed companies to produce early generation seeds to hasten the production and marketing of stress-tolerant hybrids and OPVs in West Africa. Ahmadu Bello University-Institute for Agricultural Research (ABUIAR), Zaria, and Premier Seed Ltd in Nigeria, M&B in Ghana, and Institut D’Economie Rurale (IER) in Mali produced a total of 16,600kg of breeder seeds. On the other hand, ABU-IAR Zaria, Premier Seed Ltd, Maslaha Seed Ltd, Value Seed Ltd, and Gawal Seed Ltd in Nigeria, M&B in Ghana, and Faso Kaba, and IER in Mali collectively produced some 230,800 kg of foundation seeds.
  • Production of breeder seed of stress-tolerant varieties. STMA facilitated the production of 4,688 kg of seeds of 43 promising stress-tolerant extra-early, early, intermediate/latematuring inbreds, hybrids, and OPVs for use in on-farm trials, breeder seed production, and community-based seed production.
  • Production of foundation seed of stresstolerant parental lines. Five institutions/ seed companies identified and selected by the project in Nigeria (ABU-IAR Zaria, Premier Seed Ltd, Maslaha Seed Ltd, Value Seed Ltd, and Gawal Seed Ltd), and one each in Ghana (M&B) and Mali (IER and Faso Kaba) produced 231 tons of foundation seeds of stress-tolerant parental lines.
  • Production of initial hybrid seed for demonstration, registration, and promotion. The project distributed, on request, about 15,000 kg of breeder seed of promising drought-tolerant, extra-early, early, intermediate, and late-maturing inbreds, hybrids, and varieties to NARS partners and seed companies in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Tanzania. These are currently being used in on-farm trials, breeder seed production, and community-based seed production.
  • Maintenance of parental materials. Under STMA, more than 2,000 kg of breeder/foundation seeds were produced in Nigeria by IAR (2 inbreds) and IITA (15 inbreds), and in Ghana by M&B (3 inbreds).
  • Selection and evaluation of new stress-tolerant hybrids and varieties for seed production characteristics. The project selected 30 early maturing maize hybrids comprising single, three-way, double, and top crosses and their parental lines based on their superior performance in the regional trials and other previous evaluations. They were then characterized for seed production under contrasting environments. Similarly, the project characterized 40 extra-early maturing maize parental lines and their hybrids.

Success Showcase

Mali and DTMA: When partnerships work, farmers benefit For the past nine years, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA)/STMA and Mali have worked together to generate, promote, and deliver adapted drought-tolerant maize varieties and hybrids to farmers. This partnership has led to the release of several openpollinated drought- and Striga-resistant varieties and hybrids by Malian scientists in collaboration with IITA (Table 2). The project has relied on the national agricultural research and extension system (NARES) of Mali—including IER and Institut Polytechnique Rural de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée (IPR/IFRA)—to promote the adoption of improved varieties through national and local communication and extension networks. It also worked with local seed companies such as Faso Kaba,Comptoir 2000, Coprosem, Coop Kolokoani, and DNA to actively scale up and distribute seeds of improved drought-tolerant maize hybrids and OPVs.
Additionally, through the project, 12 IITA-developed drought-tolerant early, extra-early, and intermediate maturing hybrids (Table 2) as well as six drought-tolerant OPVs have been released in Mali and are now in the

Table 2. Drought-tolerant maize varieties released under DTMA in Mali (2007 to 2015).

hands of farmers or seed companies and community seed producers. These efforts have contributed to increased maize productivity in Mali, making the country one of the top maize producers in Africa today (Fig. 1).

Together, Mali and IITA, through DTMA, have used a mix of delivery pathways to sustain and scale up seed production and dissemination to smallholder farmers in the country. In some areas of Mali that are not served by seed companies, the project supported community-based seed production schemes to ensure supply of good quality seeds of improved drought-tolerant maize varieties to farmers. Eventually, these schemes are envisioned to evolve into full-blown private seed enterprises or be linked to small-scale seed production start-ups.

Annually, IITA produces and makes available adequate quantities of breeder seed to Malian scientists through the project to produce breeder and foundation seeds, with the end goal of meeting the demand from seed producers. IITA works with Mali partners on seed-demand creation strategies to ensure sustainability of seed production such as conducting awareness and information campaigns to spur interest among potential development entities, especially seed suppliers.

IITA has also helped build the capacity of national partners to facilitate the release, promotion, and dissemination of drought-tolerant varieties. Through the project, IITA has conducted regular training courses on related areas such as breeding techniques, seed production, and seed marketing involving partners from both the public and private sectors in Mali. In addition, DTMA has also conducted several on-station and on-farm demonstrations and maize field days, and designed and implemented a variety of communication strategies and tactics to generate greater interest and adoption of improved maize seed among farmers, farmers’ organizations, seed companies, and policymakers.

Figure 1. Productivity gains in the top 20 maize-growing countries in sub-Saharan Africa compared to other major global maize-producing countries, 2000-2013 (After Abate et al. 2015).
ORCID: 0000-0003-0113-5487, 0000-0002-5907-9177, 0000-0002-8072-1363, 0000-0003-1004-2450, 0000-0001-8943-2376

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