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Seed marketing with SMS

FAO is using novel ways of delivering quality seed to farmers. Last week, national staff from Ivory Coast participated in a training workshop on mobile technology-based information systems, which will help to enhance seed marketing in the country.

A two-week training was organised by the Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP) and the Emergency and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) of FAO on how to administer and update the pilot information system for the production and commercialization of rice seeds that is being prepared for Côte d’Ivoire. This training workshop is a key activity of the regional project on sustainable intensification of rice production (in short APRAO) organised together with Ministry of Agriculture, the Inter-professional Funds for agricultural research and extension (FIRCA), the National Extension Service for Rural Development (ANADER) and the National Association of Seed Producers in Ivory Coast (ANASEMCI). The Inter-professional Funds for agricultural research and extension (FIRCA) is a key partner in the process and is funding this initiative substantially.

Rice is an increasingly essential crop in Côte d’Ivoire, and other West African nations. Its consumption is estimated to around 58 kg per inhabitant each year in Ivory Coast. Rice is also an important source of income for 10% of the active population, of which 50% are women. However, national rice production only covers 42% of needs; the remaining rice consumed is secured from external sources.

In order to lessen dependence from rice importations and to fight food insecurity, the Government of Ivory Coast has developed a national strategy for the rice sector. By targeting independence from rice imports, the strategy points out to the importance of the use of quality seeds as a mean to improve and increase national rice production. APRAO was launched in 2010 to help enhancing national rice production in a sustainable way, giving large priority to the seed production and utilisation.

Very often, a lack of quality and up-to-date information on markets and actors of the seed sector has been pointed out as one of the major drawbacks for proper access to quality seeds by farmers. Rémi Nono-Womdim, FAO AGP officer, says "Access to quality seeds in a timely manner is essential for sustainable increase in rice production in the region. FAO has been supporting the development of the seed sector in Africa, and in Ivory Coast in particular, along with many other development agencies and stakeholders.  Building on lessons learned from past initiatives, FAO is seeking to engage the private sector as a full partner in seed marketing. The new information system is an opportunity to make that happen".  

APRAO partners have agreed on the necessity to build an information system on seed production and marketing based on a cheap and effective technology that would allow the increase in seed marketing as well as the access by farmers to certified seeds. The training workshop offers an opportunity for institutions involved in the implementation of APRAO to strengthen the existing public-private partnership platform and to develop, together with the private sector, a tool that would help enhance the access by farmers to quality seeds and the incomes of seed producers and substantially contribute to fighting food insecurity and poverty in a sustainable and effective manner.

"Mobile technology is playing an instrumental role in Africa and FAO is making available resources and know-how to provide the most cost effective tools and make a significant change in living conditions of rural communities" says Antonio Stocchi, FAO TCE officer.

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