Better vegetable seeds for smallholders

More and more Dutch vegetable seed companies invest in South East Asia and Africa. They do this, because they see new markets there for their improved seeds. To what extent do the companies take into account the needs of farmers who rely on their smallholdings to survive? Agriterra asked ImpactReporters to produce a one-off magazine about this subject and prepare the expert meeting ‘Better vegetable seeds for smallholders’.

Training farmers

Dutch seed companies not only sell their products in Africa and South East Asia; they also train farmers to improve the level of horticulture in those regions. This contributes to food security and a better income for the farmers. The Dutch government, knowledge-based institutes and nongovernmental organisations support the seed companies in their efforts.

But this process also elicits questions. Does the work these company do fit with the needs of the smallholders? How can the farmers be trained and organised in such a way that they can start earning money from those new seeds? Whose responsibility is this and who pays for it all?

Recommendations for business

The magazine features policy makers but also researchers and managers from companies like Rijk Zwaan, East West Seeds and Pop Vriend. The expert meeting, the Dutch Seeds Debate, to be held on April 5, will also help gain insight into the best practices and the obstacles. These discussions will lead to recommendations for business, knowledge-based instituted and the government.

The magazine and the expert meeting are part of Agriterra’s campaign ‘Small farmers, Big Deal.’ Agriterra was founded by the Dutch agri&food sector with the aim to professionalise cooperatives in developing countries. In the coming two years, the organisation will start a dialogue with companies and the Dutch government. The main idea behind the campaign is that cooperation between companies and farmers increase opportunities for both. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the ‘Small farmers Big Deal’ campaign.