Webinar Report: Creating demand for quality seed in Northern uganda

On June 9, ISSD Africa hosted a webinar to explore innovations and experiences in improving demand creation for quality seed.

The webinar built on a case study of East West Seed Knowledge Transfer and ISSD Plus activities in northern Uganda

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the entire event here:

Case: Adoption processes of good horticulture practices in northern Uganda
The webinar was based on a case study which charts the efforts of ISSD Plus and East West Seed Knowledge Transfer to support the efficient use of high quality vegetable seed in northern Uganda.

Since 2018, the Integrated Seed Sector Development programme in Uganda (ISSD Plus) partners with several international companies in promoting the use of quality seed to increase vegetable growers’ earnings and competitiveness to improve food and nutrition security in the country. East-West Seed is one of the companies involved.

East-West Seed, through its Knowledge Transfer programme, teamed up with ISSD Plus to see if they could effectively introduce high quality vegetable seed and necessary horticultural skills to an underdeveloped market for vegetables in Northern Uganda. Within two years, there seems to be exceptionally enthusiastic uptake of the techniques shared and quality seeds demonstrated. With additional support from ISSD Africa, the two set out to explain why.

Creating demand for quality seed
Dr. Marja Thijssen of Wageningen University and Research and ISSD Africa Coordinator introduces the topic of Creating demand for quality seed and talks about the rationale for commissing the original case study

East West Seed Knowledge Transfer in Northern Uganda
Kiiza Annet, Manager of EWS-KT in Uganda talks about the organisation’s activities, explains why they engage in extensive knowledge transfer in northern Uganda and shares some insights into what is happening as a result

Learning from effective case studies
Joost Guijt of Wageningen University and Research and author of the case study, talks about its scope, what was learned, and what this means for efforts to stimulate transformation in agrifood sectors

Panel discussion: What does all of this mean for our work?
Marja Thijssen chairs a discussion with the panel, exploring the key learning points from the case study. Questions form the audience were also included here. Unanswered questions from the webinar are addressed below

Questions from the participants, answered post-webinar

To scale up, where is the place for strengthening the value chain for selling the produce?
With local traders: they need to know where they can start sourcing from groups of farmers offering sufficient bulk and quality.

If off-farm sales are important (or will be), how are consumers engaged in identifying preferred varieties?
Way too early in Uganda. People are used to only having cabbage, tomato, carrot, some local veg. Asking for varieties by consumers will take several years. Market traders can be sensitised to varieties: they have specific demands.

Are you also providing the basic seed of the tomato? Who bears the cost of the basic seed?
We provide seed for knowledge demos only. Or company bears the cost of that seed. For ordinary production a farmer has to buy.

Indigenous vegetables are in high demanding both rural and urban setup in Africa. Kiiza, have you engaged on any local vegetable production?
Yes: African Eggplant, okra, watermelon and pumpkin are common in our demos. Our company also sells Ethiopian mustard, Amaranthus and Nightshade especially in neighbouring Tanzania.

To your observation, which is more determining in adoption; access to knowledge through demos or access to varieties/seeds?
Both. Its not an either or question. If either is absent the other doesn’t work.

Please explain where the seeds comes from, what varieties are used and why, and how the seed supply system works or is envisioned to work. Are all seeds hybrids?
Our seeds come from our company. We generally use varieties that have been tested and proven to be best for the environments we grow them in. They are both hybrid and open pollinated.

Once demand is created for the high yielding varieties, would access (not availability elsewhere) be easy for farmers in terms of time and affordability?
Don’t understand question fully. But on affordability: cost of seeds is 3-5% of total cost for hybrid seed. We saw examples of 2 women pooling cash to buy a packet for 15.000 shillings, and willing to do so again next year because of higher return.

How has Covid-19 pandemic affected your activities and outputs?
EWS can share their experiences for vegetable seed sales in the country, but let me also direct your attention to the Seed Alert on the impact of COVID-19 in Uganda

What the extent of market demand for the vegetables to pull supply beyond home consummation and nutrition benefits?
The case study clearly demonstrates the value created for farmers in terms of financial capital. Beyond household food and nutrition benefits, farmers generate much-needed income from the sale of vegetables.

I’m curious as to what exit-strategy is foreseen to enable the foundation to eventually withdraw support yet ensure the ‘upgraded system’ is maintained and is sustainable? What are the critical dimensions?
The presence of trained sector professionals from other organisations, including government, trained agrodealers and trained key volunteer farmers contribute to sustainability. Every farmer who has been trained also has the knowledge for life. In addition, promoters of our commercial counterpart continue with knowledge transfer.

How important is demonstrating a return on investment in convincing farmers to adopt these new technologies and livelihood? How do you demonstrate that, and to what extent is financial literacy a constraint?
Very. Field demos are critical to show productivity levels of good seed well grown. Simple calculations within training groups on cost vs turnover are important to make it explicit. The farmers we spoke to are adept at calculating how much they would earn on a patch of land for other crops (cassave) or poor seeds.

Was there any financial support or linkage created with creditors to kick start vegetable production in the community? For example, for buying inputs
We did not and do not provide financial support. However we referred farmers to local financial organisations like village savings clubs. Many of the farmers used their own resources to kickstart production. Our advice has always been to start small so as to manage.

How is the policy support towards sustainability
Sustainability is a question of great importance to donors and government, no less than it is to a company looking to create a market. For obtaining funding support, one clearly needs to argue the case of sustainabiliyt. However, funding instruments are often too short term in focus to get the job done or ensure a high chance of sustaining benefits beyond the life of the project. Long-term, 10 year, committments are needed if we are to move from isalnds of success to raising the performance of an entire sector.

Any indication that extension workers and agro-input dealers are changing their relationship with farmers and companies? Any indication that N/GOs are taking notice of the model? And are more companies considering foundations/NPOs to lay the foundations for emerging markets? How relevant are their corporate social responsibility departments to this endeavour?
We saw 2 interesting examples of agro-input dealers investing in field demos themselves, changing what they stock based on information from the program and one starting field visit. Investing in understanding what farmers need, and what is effective to offer.