2020 has been an unusual year with the impact of COVID-19 not only on health and health systems but also on food security and livelihoods. If anything positive can be said to have come from the pandemic, it is the increased focus of Africa’s governments on basic needs – first and foremost on food supply, with most of them regarding agricultural supply chains as essential services during the lock-down period. As needs addressed by our work have clearly been intensified not only by COVID-19 but also other shocks including floods, locust infestation, droughts, and political instability in some countries, at SSG we remain energized to ensure access to improved, climate-resilient seed among the most vulnerable farming communities in Africa. During this period, SSG team took advantage of the unexpected down-time occasioned by the pandemic to complete a seed systems feasibility study and a country strategy for seed systems development in Cameroon Download here
The international border closures did not deter our desire to visit the small holder farmers who drive our mission. We seized the opportunity to visit marginalized farmers in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Kenya. We learned that research conducted by a team of Kenyan scientists in Kiboko has identified four highly promising, drought-tolerant pasture grass species for arid lands. With access to this grass seed, agro-pastoral communities in many parts of Africa will have a different story to tell, as they can sustain their livestock and their livelihoods even with minimal rainfall and unpredictable weather patterns.
SSG also participated in several virtual conferences with a focus on seed systems development, including the:
- African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF)- Parallel Session – Maintaining Technology and Input Delivery Systems- https://www.agrf.org/agrf_wp/agrf2020/#wednesday-9-september
- The World Economic Forum- https://www.unocha.org/sites/unocha/files/WEF_Sahel%20event_concept%20note.pdf
- The American Society of Agronomy- https://www.agronomy.org/meetings/sustainable-agronomy/program
- The Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement- Prioritizing breeding for development impact: ILCI 2020 annual meeting- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rfG0Pi4xnE
- The Seed Systems Development network of the Dutch Govt- https://knowledge4food.net/research-project/nl-cgiar-seed-systems-development
- IFPRI-sponsored conference on women in seed systems- Webinar on gender in seed systems https://issdafrica.org/2020/10/08/webinar-october-15-inclusive-seed-delivery-moving-from-gender-diagnoses-to-testing-solutions/
- Inception meeting of the working group on Plant Genetic Resources Management (PGRM-WG), Thursday, December 17, 2020
As we look forward to a return to normal working conditions in 2021, we remain grateful for the opportunity to do this vital work, and welcome the renewed focus by governments and international donor agencies on the basic needs of Africa’s farmers for improving their harvests and livelihoods, beginning with better access to improved, climate-resilient seed.
Wherever this year’s end finds you, we wish peace and happiness for you and your family.