Quality seed is the foundation for agriculture transformation. It leads to higher yields, quality grains and high prices.

For generations, farmers in Magwi County have suffered from lack of genuine seed supply, they recycled their grains seasons after seasons. Even for those able to afford imported seeds, all seed were supplied from Uganda, through a series of middle men. In the process seeds are usually intentionally or unintentionally adulterated. This has led to persistent low productivity which discourages farmers.

“We have struggled with our traditional seeds for too long. We did not know that the seeds that are always brought from Uganda can also be produced here by us. I have however, noticed that growing these crops for seeds is not ordinary, it needs a lot of discipline! My crops look better than for my other colleagues because of the effort I have put into weeding and preparation of land," says Oneka Francis, a proud owner of 6.5 acres of maize seed farm.

Healthy maize plant - good harvest expected

SNV, together with its national and state partners, has recognised that among other inputs, reliable access to quality seeds is a major missing link in South Sudan’s effort to transform agriculture from substance to commercial undertaking. With funding from IFAD, EKN and Government of the Republic of South Sudan, SNV is striving to solve this problem by championing a smallholder farmer-led seed production model. Under this model, a group of 50 small holder farmers are supported to establish their own individual farms ranging from minimum of two acres to over 10 acres each. The farmers are facilitated as a group to acquire foundation seeds from NASECO, a subsidiary of National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) in Uganda. With help of Community field facilitators, the farmers were practically trained on land preparation, agronomic practices. The research department of the National Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development (MAFCRD) provided technical backstopping in various aspect of the production process.

“To establish a seed production system is simple, just get some foundation seed from the research companies in neighbouring countries. Foundation seeds have near-pure lines, and when the recommended production practices are followed, the result is magical,” says Isaac Woja, SNV Project Manager.

Marketing linkages: As part of the strategy, SNV facilitated a market scan that identified a private sector seed company willing to provide ready market through contract farming arrangements. In this arrangement, the company will buy from the farmers at harvest, and take over the post-harvest handling activities including threshing, treatment, packaging, storage and marketing of qualified seeds. A contract has been signed between the farmers and the private company detailing commitment from both sides. The negotiation and contract signing process was witnessed by SNV and Director of Seed Research at the National Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

“We used to see this sort of farming in Uganda where farmers are contracted by other companies and they were getting a lot of money because the contract farming guarantees market for the produce at better price”, remarked Oyet Moses, Seed producing Farmer in Magwi. 

Pricing: At harvest maize grain in Magwi usually sold at one South Sudanese Pound (1SSP about USD0.3) per kilogram. Through this direct linkage of farmers with private seed company from Juba, these seed producers in Magwi will enjoy an overwhelming 300% rise in price from 1ssp to 3ssp (USD0.9). This increase is based on clear market information analysis.

In the last agricultural season of 2014, over 100 acres have cumulatively been cropped with foundation maize seeds. Harvesting started in December 2014 through to mid-February. According to a crop yield expert who assessed the performance of the crops, this will yield well over 150tons of maize seeds, translating to over SSP450000 (USD120000) in local revenue.

SNV is implementing agriculture support projects in Magwi and Lopa Lafon counties. The SSLDP project was designed to support farming as a business. The project focuses on developing farmers' livelihoods by improving their agriculture productivity; introducing smallholder farmers to better processing and preservation facilities; and increasing access to better market rather than relying on ‘middlemen’. It promotes commercially viable solutions to farming challenges in the target counties. The 50 farmers benefiting from this seed production venture represent over 2,500 farmers being supported by various initiatives of SSLDP project in South Sudan.

The project represents the first collaborative arrangement between the newly Independent Government of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN).