Kenya’s seed sector has grown significantly in the last few years, in part as a result of the recent adoption of supportive seed regulations and effective enforcement. Despite these strides, the sector continues to experience challenges: one is the low rate of commercialization of new varieties released by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) as recommended by the National Variety Release Committee (NVRC). TASAI studies have found that, while 314 maize varieties were released between 2000 and 2017, only 26 were sold to farmers in 2017 (and, in fact, some of those sold were released prior to 2000). The situation of sorghum is similar to that of maize: while 30 varieties were released during 2000-2017, only 11 were sold in 2017. Beans and millet are faring better: of the 31 bean varieties released, 30 were sold, and out of the 10 millet varieties released, 9 were sold. These data are important reference points for public institutions like the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) and public universities that are evaluating their breeding programs to better respond to farmers’ needs.

TASAI Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Waithaka presents findings from the TASAI Kenya study.

The mismatch between the varieties that have been officially released and those that are being commercialized was one of several issues discussed during a recent joint meeting of the NVRC and the National Performance Trials Committee (NPTC). Supported by Africa Lead, the meeting was convened on 3rd September 2019 by KEPHIS and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and included representatives from the Seed Trade Association of Kenya, the Plant Breeders’ Association of Kenya, the Kenya National Farmers’ Federation, and KALRO. The discussion, which was informed by 2018 Kenya TASAI study, highlighted the issue that the National Variety List includes all varieties that have been released by KEPHIS without reference to whether the variety is under commercial production. As such, it is not useful to farmers who are looking to select which varieties to plant. To make the list more relevant to farmers, MoALF tasked the joint committee to draft a list of varieties that are currently being commercialized. Participants in the meeting agreed to focus on the Second Schedule Crops of The Seeds and Plant Varieties (Seeds) Regulations 2016, and they set a deadline of January 2020 to release a publication targeting farmers that is simple and user-friendly. The publication will be shared with all Counties to ensure wide outreach.

TASAI Program Coordinator Mainza Mugoya welcomes
invited delegates.