Access to quality seed in Africa has been hampered by drought, pests and diseases which have curtailed optimal productivity, agriculture experts have said.

Nevertheless, breeders argue that there is still huge potential to maximise Africa’s agricultural productivity by leveraging on already available high-quality seeds of newly improved climate-smart varieties produced from different breeding programmes within the region such as the DroughtTEGO hybrids.

DroughtTEGO is a drought-tolerant white maize variety developed and deployed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

This climate-smart variety can produce a substantial grain yield even under moderate drought conditions.

Speaking during the first Rwanda National Seed Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, Munyaradzi Jonga, a Seed Production Specialist and TAAT Maize Compact Lead at AATF noted that even though several crop varieties have been released and registered in recent years, countries in the region are still lagging in achieving seed and food security contributing to the low adoption of new seed-based technologies by farmers.

Dr Jonga pointed out that partnerships in technology commercialisation are crucial in technology development; new products awareness and demand creation and uptake; supporting capacity to access; and delivering appropriate agricultural technologies to smallholder African farmers.

Furthermore, he noted that policy and regulatory enabling environment are key in seed systems development and commercialisation.

Experts agree that international and national research organisations develop technologies and innovations, including climate-resilient crop varieties.

However, the outputs of research in Africa are not easily commercialised. Cognizant of this, seed systems are putting in place mechanisms to enable private companies to access and commercialise climate resilient varieties.

“AATF is spearheading commercialisation of technology and innovations emanating from research through partnerships with different organisations including national research systems to deliver improved seeds to smallholder farmers,” Dr Jonga said.

Through AATF partnerships in technology commercialisation, he stated that the organisation has produced over 35,480 tonnes of climate-smart maize seeds that have been commercialised through the WEMA project, StrigAway, TELA and TAAT Maize projects over the past 10 years, reaching more than 3.5 million framers and enough to grow maize on about 1.4 million hectares in Africa.

AATF works across many areas to ensure innovations can ultimately reach farmers. These areas include regulatory approval, licensing agreements and product commercialisation, with the organisation connecting African farmers with advanced technology that addresses their specific challenges and opportunities.