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While improved varieties can give farmers increased yields, the percentage of small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa growing them is very low, especially for legumes. One reason for this is the unavailability and unaffordability of the seeds.
The early win project on ‘Multiplication of breeder and basic seed for Maize and Legumes in Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia’ aimed to speed up the production of breeder and foundation seeds of improved varieties released by researchers to make them available to farmers. It was led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“The process of getting improved varieties from researchers to farmers is rather complicated. The breeders first produce breeder seeds; these are multiplied to give the foundation seed which is then forwarded to seed companies to further multiply and produce certified seeds which are sold to farmers,” said Moses Siambi, a scientist with ICRISAT Malawi and one of the researchers in this early win project.
The project partners in the three countries first drew up an inventory of bean, cowpea, soybean, pigeonpea, and groundnut varieties that had been released, which farmers liked. They then produced breeder and foundation seeds for distribution to seed company partners who, in turn, produced or shall produce certified seeds to sell to farmers.
The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) produced foundation and breeder seeds of popular bean varieties. These included 100 kg of breeder seeds of ’Jessica’ (a relatively drought-tolerant and marketable bean variety) and ‘Lyamungu’ (a high yielding and highly marketable bean adapted to Northern Zones of Tanzania). In Zambia, 200 kg of basic seeds of ‘Kabulanketi’ variety were produced.
In Malawi, the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi produced 950 kg of breeder seeds of five varieties of beans released in the country. ICRISAT produced breeder and foundations seeds for ground nuts pigeonpea, soybean and cowpea
“For groundnuts, we produced a ton each of breeder seed of ICGV-SM 90704 and CG7 and a ton each of basic seeds in Malawi. We produced 200 kg each of breeder seeds of Nachingwea, Masasi, and Naliendele in Tanzania, and one ton basic seeds and ten tons of certified seeds of the Naliendele variety. We also produced 200 kg each of breeder seeds of Chishango, MGV4 and MGV5 in Zambia,” Siambi said.
For pigeonpea, two tons of breeder seeds of Mwaiwathualimi and ICEAP 0015/14 were produced in Malawi and 10 tons each of certified pigeonpea seed of 000557 and ICEAP 00040 in Tanzania. 100 kg breeder seeds of soybean variety were produced, in Zambia. For cowpea, the DAR in Malawi produced 300 kg of certified seeds and Zambia produced 80 kg of basic seeds.
The early win project also conducted training sessions about proper seed production, management and management tools for national researchers and small-scale private seed producers.
The project partners were the Ministries of Agriculture and the National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS) in the three countries, CIAT and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
(Article by Catherine Njuguna)
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More ‘early win’ projects

The Africa RISING program comprises three linked research-for-development projects, funded by the USAID Feed the Future Initiative, and aiming to sustainably intensify mixed farming systems in West Africa (Southern Mali and Northern Ghana), the Ethiopian Highlands and East and Southern Africa (Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi).
To produce some short-term outputs and to support the longer term objectives of the projects, in 2012 Africa RISING funded several small, short-term projects in each of the regions. More information.

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