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Senegal: Farmers multiply local seeds

Sidy Balde is the only producer of maize seeds in his village. Mr. Balde is the chief of Saré Gueladjo village, in the Department of Médinana Yoro Fula, 11 km from Kolda in southern Senegal. He was trained in seed multiplication five years ago by Sodefitex, the Society for Development and Fibre Textiles. He produces seeds for sale. His role is to ensure that seeds certified by agricultural research institutes are available and to resell them to farmers.

To reproduce quality seeds, he must comply with certain standards. First of all, Mr. Balde must maintain a minimum distance of 150 metres between his field and the next one in order to retain the genetic purity of his seeds and avoid contamination.

By planting two 25-kilogram bags of maize, he can harvest two hectares of good quality seeds. He explains: “With the basic seeds, each seed can produce two to three cobs of maize.” “Basic seed” is derived from seeds developed by plant breeders, and maintains the genetic purity and identity of those seeds.

Seeds go through several stages of multiplication before reaching consumption. Parent or pre-basic seeds for cereals come from the country’s agricultural research institutions.

This is transformed into basic seed by multipliers, and then into further generations of seeds. Some types of seeds, for example groundnut, are multiplied many more times than others before being used by farmers.

Oumar Balde is an agent of SEDAB, a Sahelian agribusiness distribution company. He says that there are several ways to produce seeds and that many of these systems are used in Kolda and the Casamance region. He explains: “We have the transplanting system, which consists of sowing first in nurseries. After 21 or 22 days, plants are removed and transplanted in the field. We also have the semi-direct system. It consists of sowing directly in the production field. This method is used for areas of one to five hectares. And finally, there is the semi-broadcast system. This system is most often used for very large areas, 10 hectares or more.”

Mr. Oumar Balde says the transplanting system is more profitable because it produces a higher yield, but it’s only appropriate for small areas. For example, 40 kilograms of maize seed can yield an average of three tonnes, while it requires twice that amount in the semi-direct system and three times that amount with broadcasting. But the transplanting system requires more labour and effort, so is difficult to use over larger areas.

Despite their efforts, seed producers have difficulty selling their products after harvest. Normally, Mr. Balde sells one kilogram of maize seed at 1000 FCFA ($1.84 US). But because he couldn’t find a customer with this purchasing power in his village, he was obliged to sell it at 500 or 600 FCFA (a little less or more than $1 US) per kilo.

Seed producers must therefore store the seeds they harvest. But seed saving requires many special practices. The storage area must be ventilated, well-lit, and possibly treated to kill pests and disease organisms. This is a problem for Mr. Balde, who doesn’t have a granary. He explains: “I am obliged to rent a space where I can keep my seeds for two months. The rent is 30,000 FCFA ($55 US) a month. I also rent a machine to husk the maize to avoid any risk of damaging the seed.”

This article was produced with the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation, Enabel, and the Wehubit program.