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Towards a sustainable vegetable seed sector in the Sahel: Vegetable Seed Multiplication and Storage workshop held in Niamey, Niger


May 1, 2009

Source: AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center - Newsletter

Towards a sustainable vegetable seed sector in the Sahel

Whether an agricultural production or seed system is sustainable depends on a variety of factors.

Socioeconomic, political, and infrastructural factors come into play, but it all begins with high quality seed that is well adapted to local climatic conditions, and sound seed regulations and policies. With one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, West Africa provides conditions that are a challenge for sustainable vegetable seed production.

AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center’s project on “Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems for Poverty Alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa” (vBSS) is striving to create a seed system to help strengthen the vegetable sector and improve the region’s supply of safe, healthy, and profitable vegetables.

In a “Vegetable Seed Multiplication and Storage” workshop jointly organized by AVRDC – The World Vegetable
, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), held in Niamey, Niger from 23–27 March, farmers and technicians from the region received practical training in the crucial aspects of vegetable seed production and related technologies.

The workshop was a continuation of a previous workshop on nursery management held in December 2008. “We received 67 registrations from Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, which exceeded our initial estimations by far,” says AVRDC vegetable breeder Dr. Sanjeet Kumar. The high number of participants was
all the more remarkable as the costs for the workshop had to be carried by each participant individually.

The workshop gave participants and instructors ample opportunities to exchange questions and answers, and
to reflect and learn from the experiences of farmers in other regions of the Sahel.

“Building capacity is a cornerstone for creating sustainable impact,” says Dr. Kumar. “Small-scale vegetable seed
production practices at the individual farmer or community level are very crucial in the Sahel region. Therefore
we tried to show the correlation between vegetable seed production technology, vegetable production and
vegetable seedling production.”

The acceptance of new technologies is typically greatest when farmers experience first-hand the benefits the new technology offers. “For instance, one tomato farmer from Niger reported an improved seed rate,” explains Dr. Kumar. “He said that a significantly lower seed rate could be used in his tomato planting.”

The training provided a module to be included in a larger range of workshops and courses. The logical next step would be on-farm training including multilocation testing trials.

“Breeders evaluate and identify genotypes with premium attributes, typically through multilocation testing,” says the breeder. “Helping farmers choose the best variety is the first step to better yields and successful marketing.”

The Center’s recent baseline survey carried out by the vBSS project provides excellent guidance to select appropriate crops for the commercial seed industry in West Africa. “We’ve learned that the public and private
sectors have to play their roles,” says Dr. Kumar. “They complement each other, and together we can succeed in
building a sustainable vegetable sector in the Sahel, a sector that offers opportunities and benefits for smallholder farmers, small seed companies, and consumers.”

Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems for Poverty Reduction in sub-Saharan Africa (vBSS)
2008, 4 pages
PDF Brochure (537 KB) - English & French

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