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AVRDC at AFSTA annual congress

The Center hosted a symposium about vegetable seed systems during this seminal event for seed in Africa 

The Africa Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) hosted its 16th annual congress from 1-3 March 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. The high-profile conference brought together more than 400 delegates from Africa and the rest of the world to talk about seed on the continent. Many participants were from the private sector and the 2016 congress was an excellent forum for seed stakeholders to exchange viewpoints, network, consider investment opportunities, and most importantly, discuss important issues on seed trade at national and international levels.

AFSTA is a not-for-profit membership association formed in 2000 to spearhead interests of private seed companies in Africa. Currently, AFSTA has about 100 members, most representing seed companies and national seed trade associations. As a champion of enhancing the vegetable seed supply for smallholder farmers, the World Vegetable Center is also a member of this important organization. AFSTA promotes trade in quality seeds, strengthens communication with African seed industries and with the world, facilitates establishment of national seed trade associations in Africa, interacts with regional governments and NGOs involved in seed activities, promote activities that lead to regulatory harmonization throughout Africa, and is developing a statistical database on African seed production and trade.

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Bert Van Der Feltz, President and CEO of East-West Seed Group, talks about what the company has learned from working in Asia. East-West Seed ranks top in several categories of the recently published and much talked about Access to Seed Index, so his presentation was timely and well-received. Seated from left to right: Thomas Dubois, Victor Afari-Sefa, Guy Blaise Satsa, Mark Huisenga and Richard Jones.

AFSTA has two special interest groups, one for field crops and one for vegetables. AVRDC is an active member and supporter of the vegetable special interest group, and took a lead role in organizing a symposium on “Vegetable seed for smallholder farmers: improving access and quality to an untapped market” during the congress.

Victor Afari-Sefa, AVRDC Agricultural Economist and Global Theme Leader – Consumption, discussed research on vegetable seed systems for smallholders: impact, market pathways and future perspectives. Mark Huisenga, Senior Program Manager from USAID, provided his insight on donor roles in vegetable seed systems for Feed the Future initiatives and beyond. Richard Jones, Chief of Party of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) talked about easing the regulatory burden for seed of staple crops, based on lessons from the vegetable seed sector. Bert Van Der Feltz, President and CEO of East-West Seed Group, talked about transforming vegetable farming in tropical Africa through private-sector initiatives. The symposium was skillfully chaired by Guy Blaise Satsa, Managing Director of Semagri and chair of AFSTA’s special interest group on vegetables, while AVRDC Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Thomas Dubois, moderated the symposium. AVRDC Vegetable Breeder Fekadu Dinssa and Genetic Resources Specialist Tsvetelina Stoilova also attended the event.

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Symposium presenters and members of AFSTA’s special interest group on vegetables. Left to right: Philippe Lesigne (Monsanto), Mark Huisenga (USAID), Victor Afari-Sefa (AVRDC), Thomas Dubois (AVRDC), Guy Blaise Satsa (Semagri), Grace Gitu (AFTSA), Richard Jones (AGRA), Denias Zaranyika (president of AFSTA), Justin Rakotoarisaona (AFSTA’s secretary-general), Bert Van Der Feltz (East-West Seed Group).

About 120 delegates attended the two-hour symposium and participated in lively discussions that extended right into the cocktail hour. With so many issues and points to discuss, the symposium at the 2017 congress in Senegal is likely to be an equally successful event.

AFSTA showcased more than 30 booths this year, in which private companies highlighted what they have to offer in Africa. AVRDC also set up a booth. Kenya Site Coordinator Charles Onyango organized a wonderful display featuring videos from the field, seed kits and many traditional African vegetables. Prizes were awarded to the best booths during AFSTA’s gala dinner at Nairobi’s renowned Carnivore restaurant. AVRDC took second place for the best booth—a grand ending for a fine event.


Story and photos: Thomas Dubois

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Charles Onyango (right) and Thomas Dubois (center) receiving a prize for the AVRDC booth during AFSTA’s gala dinner from Grace Gitu.