Since 2010, twenty-nine small rural enterprises in the business of producing high quality seed have been producing enough bean seed to plant 78,000 hectares, which will make bean grain available to 296,000 families in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Belize, according to the Seeds for Development project. The businesses also produced enough maize seed to plant 47,000 hectares, making maize grain available to 130,000 families.
The twenty-nine seed companies represent 160 small-farmers’ organizations, which in turn represent 11,000 producers, of which 32.7% are women. The Seeds for Development project has been supporting the twenty-nine businesses by providing legal advice, organizational, administrative, and technical training, the acquisition and installation of seed processing equipment, and support for the identification of markets and marketing. The project is implemented by the governments of Central American countries of the Agricultural Council (CAC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and is funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECI).
The project’s objective is to promote sustainable seed systems for family farming in Central America. "Family farmers produce the vast majority of the beans and maize grown in Central America, yet until recently have not had sustainable access to high-quality seed of the varieties they prize. High quality bean seed, along with proper crop management can double bean productivity on family farms in Central America" stated Allan Hruska, Plant Production and Protection Officer of FAO in Central America.
Public sector support of small seed businesses
Key to the success of the small seed businesses is support from the public seed sector. Seeds for Development has carried out a review of the legal and administrative structure of seed laws and directives to identify areas where improvements might be made to make the public seed sector more inclusive of small local businesses. The project has also helped ensure that the public sector is producing and delivering registered seed to the small businesses for its multiplication for sale, as well as ensuring that the small businesses meet or exceed all quality standards defined for the seed. Finally, the project encourages the public sector to advise and support the businesses in better understanding market opportunities for their seed and how to access the markets.
Strengthening the public sector
Sustainable seed systems for family famers depend on a strong and innovative public seed sector. Seeds for Development has worked closely with the national public seed sector to identify the legal, technological, innovative and administrative capacities of the national seed offices in regards to support for small seed businesses and developed a plan of action with each country to strengthen their national seed programmes. The project has provided laboratory and seed processing equipment, technical advice and training to the national seed programmes and helped improve the management and provision of basic and registered seeds managed by the public sector.
"Central America is well on its way towards having a vigorous and innovative sustainable seed system that provides high quality basic grain seed to family farmers. This system is based rural seed businesses, supported by a robust, inclusive public seed programme" affirmed the Plant Production and Protection Officer of FAO.
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