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Working paper 27- Enhancing Access and Utilization of Quality Seed for improved Food Security in Kenya

Author(s):  Ayieko, Miltone; Tschirley, David


Introduction

Seed and planting materials are no doubt the most important inputs in agricultural production. However much a farmer puts to use other productive inputs (land, fertilizer, labor etc), seed still determines whether an output will be realized or not. The government of Kenya has been pursuing strategies aimed at increasing agricultural productivity as this has been seen to be central to accelerating economic growth and improving the wellbeing of both rural and urban people in Kenya.

Seed has been recognized as a core component to realizing this strategy. Compared to other agricultural inputs, seed has been shown to have the greatest potential to increase on-farm productivity and enhance food security (Muyanga et al, 2005).

Improved seed thus plays pivotal role in increasing agricultural productivity and thereby reduces production costs inherent in our production systems . Two seed systems exist in Kenya, the formal and informal seed systems. While the formal seed system is an important source of high quality certified seed, it is not able to meet the farmers’ demand.

Majority of farmers therefore rely on the informal seed system for seed and planting material for most agricultural commodities, and often recycle seed that has been exhausted through generations of cultivation. The result has been persistently low yields. The challenge in the Kenyan agriculture today is to develop seed production and delivery systems that encourage wider use of quality seed throughout the marketing chain. In deed, one of the six fast-track activities for Kenya’s Strategy for Revitalization of Agriculture (SRA) is to improve access to quality inputs and financial services (Republic of Kenya, 2004).

A well-functioning seed system is one that uses the appropriate combination of formal, informal, market and non-market channels to efficiently meet farmers’ demands for quality seeds. While the seed industry in Kenya is better developed compared to other countries within the region, high cost of seed relative to other purchased inputs, coupled with the inability of the formal seed system to meet the demand by farmers have been cited as bottlenecks to the seed industry (Nyoro and Ariga, 2004). Moreover, local and international seed companies find it unprofitable to make the investment required to provide the quantity, quality and variety of seed needed to support an expanding agricultural base.

In addition, poor legislative and regulatory framework in the seed industry has adversely affected access to improved seed and planting materials by farmers. Since the liberalization of the seed industry in 1996, private sector participation has increased, with a number of private seed companies being registered to produce seed, thus reducing the monopoly that the Kenya Seed Company has enjoyed for a long time.

While it was widely expected that this would lead to improved accessibility to quality seed and hence increased efficiency, agricultural productivity has generally been low and shown declining trends. In addition, mechanisms to protect farmers from malpractices by the seed producers and traders have not been adequately put in place. Farmers, therefore have no fallback position when faces with seed crisis. Poor accessibility to information regarding demand, supply and general performance in seed the market, were also among other constraints identified (Kamau, 2002).

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), which is charged with the regulation of the seed industry, has also been viewed by key stakeholders to impede the release of improved varieties from breeding programs to seed producers and eventually to farmers. This has often worked against private sector investment in the seed sector. A study by Tegemeo in 2002 showed that the regulatory environment and restrictions in the maize seed industry was prominent and breeders lacked incentives from seed industry for investment.

This study takes a look at the seed industry in Kenya with a view to understanding the approaches that have been used to access seed by farmers in the face of an ineffective formal seed system. The study proposes policies to help establish a seed market with an effective demand large enough to induce the needed investment and create the competition required to establish a viable and efficient seed industry.

Enhancing Access and Utilization of Quality Seed for improved Food Security in Kenya  

 

 

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