April 9, 2014
"Africa desperately needs simple and efficient high yielding farming systems: improved seeds bred for local conditions, combined with necessary chemical fertilizer and effective integrated pest management practices."
– Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Prize Laureate and Father of the Green Revolution
Dr. Borlaug’s statement is nearly 50 years old, but it is still just as true today. Productivity levels in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) lag behind those in the rest of the world. Between 2000 and 2009, grain yields in SSA averaged only 2 MT/Ha per year. The agriculture farming systems in SSA continue to be plagued by shortages in the generation, dissemination and usage of new technologies that are critical for increasing and sustaining yields. In particular, the use of modern, quality seed and improved varieties can play a substantial role in increasing yield performance; improving disease resistance and tolerance to local agro-climatic conditions (e.g., drought); and enhancing efficiency (i.e., of use of fertilization). The AgResults initiative is developing a pull mechanism to increase seed productivity levels and help address the food security challenges in SSA.
The primary objective of the pull mechanism is to incent seed companies to introduce improved seed varieties outside of staple crops (e.g., maize, rice) in order to generate higher yields, greater food security, and better nutritional outcomes through food diversity. In addition, building a stronger, more competitive local seed industry could be a potential supplemental benefit. In order to develop this program, the pilot design team first undertook an extensive geographic analysis to select a pilot location for this pull mechanism. As part of the analysis, the team created a number of quantitative filters in order to identify the geographies with the greatest need, availability of solvers, and potential for impact. The team augmented this research by conducting interviews with local agricultural experts in the identified priority geographies in order to better understand factors such as the ease of doing business and the state of the private market. Ultimately, Uganda was selected as the pilot location in part due to its relatively large market, maturity, availability of solvers, and strong potential for impact.
With Uganda identified as the target pilot geography, the team then looked into designing pull mechanisms that could address breakdowns in the country’s value chain for non-maize crops such as legumes and small grains. By mapping the key breakdowns from working capital financing to establishing consistent and reliable output markets, the team has worked to identify where a pull mechanism could be the most effective solution.
The next step in the pilot design process is for the team to prepare and conduct a field visit to Uganda. The field visit is a critical step in the design process as it allows the team to develop a deeper understanding of the selected market’s nuances and challenges. The field visit provides the opportunity to meet with potential solvers and beneficiaries of the prize in order to test the current pilot design hypotheses. The pilot design team is currently on the ground in Uganda conducting interviews with local farmers, private seed companies, NGO’s, government officials, and academics and are looking forward to sharing their findings in a future post.