Giving Africa’s new crop varieties a data boost digitally

To increase adoption of new improved varieties in Africa, a webinar was recently organized under the aegis of the AVISA project to familiarize seed system stakeholders with SEEDx, a mobile application developed by ICRISAT that facilitates data-driven decision making.

Dr Chris Ojiewo, AVISA project Co-Principal Investigator, outlined SEEDx and informed that it allows real-time capturing of data on varieties and allied technologies including date of sowing, agronomic practices, harvest yield, stakeholder feedback from field days and the geo-coordinates of demonstration plots. The collected data serves as key information for making business case for varieties, he said while adding that SEEDx complements earlier efforts made on digital seed catalogues to provide details of varieties’ traits. The webinar included a demonstration on access and use of the application by Mr Satish Nagaraji, Senior Manager, and Ms Kanika Singh, Senior Scientific Officer, from ICRISAT’s Digital Agriculture and Youth Theme.

The need for SEEDx

Farmers in Africa have limited access to quality seed of improved varieties despite the large number of variety releases and registrations. Limited access has led to high reliance on aging varieties that farmers usually obtain from neighbors, saved grain or local grain markets. These varieties lack the traits necessary to tackle existing and emerging biotic and abiotic stresses. Limited access also results in uncertainty in seed markets and makes improved varieties commercially non-viable for private seed ventures. Additionally, seed companies are unable to take informed decisions owing to lack of data on performance of newly released varieties in varied agro-ecological zones.

To address these gaps, SEEDx was developed through the AVISA project to collect, organize and make available robust data. The SEEDx data dashboard ingests secondary data on location-specific weather and soil parameters to create evidence and insights on variety performance.

The tool is already in use by AVISA partners including National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS); CGIAR institutions including ICRISAT, The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA).

What users have to say?

Mr Gerald Alex from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) remarked that the application is user-friendly because his team is able to easily explain its use to extension officers. “Besides capturing basic and relevant information, SEEDx enables access to data from all places without physical visits by researchers,” he added.

Dr Nathalie Vignaux, Seeds2B Operational Excellence Lead at Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) noted that the collection of data and storage in one place through SEEDx brings transparency even as it helps in visualization of data, which is the first step towards enhancing varietal improvement process. She also emphasized the need to focus on creating awareness about the tool by demonstrating its use to farmers.

“This will show that SEEDx is more than just a statistical tool for depicting advancement of varieties from one stage to the next. It is an intervention for enhance informed decision-making among value chain stakeholders,” Dr Vignaux said to underscore its importance.

Explaining the reasons for low uptake of new varieties by seed companies, Dr Essegbemon Akpo, Seed Systems Specialist, ICRISAT ESA, said the existence of many new varieties is not widely known. He called on AVISA partners, especially NARS, to use SEEDx and generate data on the varieties, particularly from their diverse agro-ecologies. “The data will be useful for awareness creation among the stakeholders more so the seed companies,” he said.

Watch the SEEDx animation video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOESQtVL7eg&t=3s

Project: Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA)
Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID
Partners: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), NARS partners from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, and ICRISAT
CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)
This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 7-decent-work 17-partnerships-goals 

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