By Akanimo Sampson
Access to Seeds Index has said that improving access to seeds for farmers in regions that are currently considered food insecure is key to meeting their future food demands. Hunger is a daily reality for almost one billion people around the world. The global population is expected to grow by a further two billion in the coming decades, precisely in those regions that are food insecure.
According to World Vision, a group that is concerned with pulling up the roots of poverty and planting the seeds of change, hunger appears to be on the rise after a years-long decline. But there were still fewer people going hungry last year than the 900 million chronically hungry in 2000.
Around the world, 815 million people regularly go to bed hungry, according to a report from the United Nations food agencies. That is about 11 percent of the world’s population. Despite overall improvements in food security, some areas of the world are lagging behind in providing adequate nutrition for healthy development, according to The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World 2017, released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Five worst spots for hunger
Developing countries account for 791 million or 98 percent of chronically undernourished people. The five regions with the highest number of hungry people as a proportion of population include: Sub-Saharan Africa: 22.7 percent, Caribbean: 17.7 percent, Southern Asia: 14.4 percent, Southeastern Asia: 11.5 percent, and Western Asia: 10.6 percent
The report notes that “the greatest food security challenges overall remain in sub-Saharan Africa,” where every day more than one in four people lack adequate food. Yet, Asia has the highest number of hungry individuals: 525.6 million people.
“This is where the seed industry can play a crucial role,’’ says Access to Seeds Index.
Based on how important stakeholders – farmers, governments, scientists, NGOs and the industry itself – view the role and responsibility of the seed industry, a methodology was developed with clearly defined criteria.
For Access to Seeds Index, the role of the private sector has been vital to the transition and growth of Nigeria’s seed industry unlike in many other West African countries.
According to it, private sector participation in breeding and variety release has led to an increase in its share of variety release in the country, which the public sector dominated until 2000.
The private sector now constitutes 13% of variety releases in the seed market, with the public seed sector constituting the remaining 87%.
Access to Seeds Index evaluates and compares seed companies according to their efforts to improve access to quality seeds of improved varieties for smallholder farmers. The Index seeks primarily to identify leadership and good practices, providing an evidence base for the discussion on where and how the seed industry can step up its efforts.
On its website, it pointed out that private sector engagement is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. By creating a better understanding of the seed industry’s performance, the Index aims to contribute to the achievement of these goals.
According to the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), there are 157 registered seed companies in Nigeria, with the majority producing fewer than 1,000 metric tons of seeds annually. The Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria is the country’s main private seed trading body, with approximately 67 registered members.
There is no plant variety protection law currently operational in Nigeria, but the country has a biosafety agency law, which is considered a fast-track for commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops. Although the country is a signatory to various treaties of the FAO and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), work is ongoing to develop a model plant variety law that will be in line with the UPOV 1991 convention. Confined testing of GM crops is currently underway.
The public seed sector is run by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the NASC, which works under the FMARD, and the Crop Varieties Registration and Release Committee (CVRRC).
The CVRRC is responsible for varietal evaluation, release and registration in the national catalog of registered and released varieties.
The National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) among others play a significant role in the agriculture sector and produce foundation seed. Moreover, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research is an important player in Nigeria, with ongoing activities through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and AfricaRice.
There are 24 index companies in Nigeria—the highest number in the region. Four companies are headquartered in Nigeria, four have breeding activities in the country, and 10 have testing locations.
Six companies have seed production activities in Nigeria, of which four involve smallholder farmers, while five companies have processing facilities in the country.
Of the 24 index companies, only nine accompany their sales activities with extension services. Technisem and Value Seeds stand out with 30 technical staff members