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Mainstreaming Efficient Legume Seed Systems in Eastern Africa

Challenges, Opportunities and Contributions towards Improved Livelihoods

image of Mainstreaming Efficient Legume Seed Systems in Eastern Africa

Legumes are important components of sustainable farming systems. They are useful to diversify and intensify cropping systems; fix atmospheric nitrogen and improve soil health; act as rotation crops; increase and diversify smallholder incomes; and lower the carbon footprint, mitigating climate change. Legumes can therefore play a critical role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, as this publication points out, their production is challenged by various policy, regulatory, institutional and technical factors, including a lack of attention from the public sector and limited opportunity to attract private sector investment.

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Twelve principles in mainstreaming efficient legume seed systems in Eastern Africa

Developing a sustainable legume seed sector requires a particular approach to analysing the legume seed chain’s critical bottlenecks that hinder technology flow from supply through adoption, to developing support strategies and solutions to the barriers identified as well as clear impact pathways and plans to assessing developmental impact. Seed security assessment (SSA) becomes critical here in order to identify the bottlenecks by collecting and analysing data to allow an understanding of the parameters of seed security, as well as how best to intervene to support seed security (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5548e.pdf ). One of the factors limiting efficiency in the legume seed sector is the lack of policy support for the input and output markets of legume crops at par with staple cereal crops. In general, legumes have not received sufficient government attention in the past and were called ‘orphan’ crops compared with food security crops, although the situation is changing. Legumes compete for the attention of seed companies against crops that receive stronger policy support. This is besides the already stated facts that legumes are less attractive for private sector investment as it is difficult for seed companies to secure margins from steady seed demand; they do not have strong output markets (especially those linked to a specific variety); and farmers may not have strong incentives to buy legume seed from formal channels on a regular basis.

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