African seed enterprises

African seed enterprises

Sowing the seeds of food security

Edited by

Paul Van Mele
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

Jeffery W. Bentley

Robert G. Guéi
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Download Full Report  -9Mb

Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2011


The subject of seed provision commands an exceptional amount of attention in most discussions of agricultural development. The reasons are not difficult to understand, as the security and quality of seed supply are among the principal determinants of any farmer’s success. But, despite this unanimity of interest, there is relatively little agreement on what needs to be done to support the growth of effective and equitable seed provision in developing countries.

Part of the controversy over seed provision is the product of legitimate concerns about the nature and impact of the commercial seed sector. There is, for instance, the danger that an overemphasis on commercial seed supply will disregard the role that farmers continue to play in the identification and preservation of productive germplasm, the maintenance of local systems of seed sale and exchange, and innovations in crop management. In addition, there are understandable worries about the growing reach of the multinational ‘life sciences’ industry, its increasing control of the seed sector and the concentration of access to technology in too few hands.

But commercial seed supply can take many different forms, and it is a larger part of many ‘traditional’ farming systems than people may realize. It is difficult to imagine a productive agricultural system in the 21st century without access to some type of formal seed provision through various types of seed enterprise. As agricultural economies develop there is a natural shift towards specialization in the supply of products and services that were previously part of self-sufficient farms or communities. The access to commercial seed supply offers wider access to the products of modern plant breeding and helps ensure that a farmer’s seed supply is not completely dependent on the vagaries of local climate or other uncertainties in local production systems. In addition, the expansion of agricultural markets often provides farmers with an opportunity to earn a premium for the specific qualities of their produce, which may require more attention to high quality and uniform seed than can be provided on-farm. The availability of commercial seed also allows the farmer to invest time in other activities, on- or off-farm, without having to worry about next year’s seed supply.

Table of Contents

Introduction to this Book
List of Tables
List of Boxes


1  Introduction: a Full Granary
2  How Seed Works
3  Cameroon: Revolving Funds Make a Difference
4  Nigeria: Clustered Seed Companies
5  Mali: When Government Gives Entrepreneurs Room to Grow
6  Guinea: Networks that Work
7  The Gambia: Capturing the Media
8  Morocco: the Visible Hand
9  Kenya: a Company, a Cooperative and a Family
10 Uganda: Dreams of Starting a Company
11 Madagascar: Coping with Relief Aid and Politics
12 Conclusions

  pdf [2Mb]

Acronyms and Abbreviations
Glossary of Terms


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations or its partners concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations or its partners. The conclusions given in this report are considered appropriate at the time of its preparation.

All rights reserved. FAO and AfricaRice encourage reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product. Non-commercial uses will be authorized free of charge upon request. Reproduction for resale or other commercial purposes, including educational purposes, may incur fees. Applications for permission to reproduce or disseminate FAO copyright materials and all other queries on rights and licences should be addressed by email to or to the Chief, Publishing Policy and Support Branch, Offi ce of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension, FAO, Viale delle Termi di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy. Applications for permission to reproduce or disseminate AfricaRice copyright materials should be made to or to the Head, Marketing and Communications, AfricaRice, 01 B.P. 2031 Cotonou, Benin.

© FAO and AfricaRice, 2011