Cornell Aims to Get Next-Gen Seeds to African Farmers

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A new Cornell University initiative helps ensure that new seed varieties with higher yields make it through the supply chain from breeders to African farmers.

The African Seed Access Index was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, by its developers — the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) — in collaboration with Market Matters, a nonprofit organization that assists small enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa.

CIIFAD and Market Matters developed The African Seed Access Index to track indicators at key points along the seed delivery chain where failure impedes the flow of seeds to small-farm owners. The findings might then inform governments, industries, breeders, farmers and others on where to focus attention to keep supplies moving. African farmers’ adoption rate of improved staple varieties, such as maize, cowpea and sorghum, can be as low as 20 percent.

With breeders, governments, industry, NGOs, farmers and others involved in a complex supply chain, there has been no viable system  for getting a top-down view of where choke points stifle seed access, until now.

Cornell’s role is key to the process as it provides a credible and neutral broker of information, without competing interests, says Ed Mabaya, principal investigator of The African Seed Access Index and CIIFAD assistant director.

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