Angolan agriculture can perhaps best be described as a sleeping giant. Prior the outbreak of civil war in 1975, Angola exported serious tonnages of maize and other grains. Sadly, today, a full 18 years after the cessation of hostilities, smallholder agriculture is still highly undeveloped, largely due to failed policies which favored large-scale production up until the change in the country’s leadership, in September, 2017.
The good news is that the new government of President João Lorenço gets it, and is putting a major priority on the development of smallholder agriculture. My weeklong mission to Angola couldn’t have been more packed with information and observations about how to develop Angola’s seed systems. For this I have to thank Mr. Paulo Amaral, CEO and founder of Jardins da Yoba seed company of Lubango, and João Saraiva, principal agronomist of Jardins da Yoba. On the government side the visit was organized by Dr. Dibanzilua Nginamau of the national agricultural research institute, and Mr. Antonio Sozinho, who met with me twice during my time in Luanda, and expressed great interest on the part of the Government of Angola in collaborating with SSG as a catalyst for developing the country’s seed sector.
The Angolan government has fully endorsed a public-private model for seed supply. Each year, it purchases several thousand tons of maize and millet seed from two of the country’s large seed producers, Jardins da Yoba and Kambondo Agropecuária. I met with the leaders of both these seed companies, and travelled to Lubango to visit the production sites of Jardins da Yoba, and was highly impressed with the vision they have for seed systems development, both on the side of private sector and the public sector. Truly, the country is blessed to have such brave, visionary investors active in seed!
The big challenge for private sector at the moment is to convert the current production and supply of seed of open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties of maize to hybrid seed production as a means of increasing the country’s very low (approx. 1 MT/ha) average maize yields. First, however, they need to identify the optimal public hybrid available. In this they are being supported by CIMMYT’s Harare breeding station, namely Dr. Cosmos Magorokosho, and we can only encourage this collaboration to continue and go far. Based on my observations and discussions with João, it would also be good to test some IITA hybrids, which may be earlier-maturing than CIMMYT’s, and also well-adapted.
Angola is a fascinating country, now full of promise thanks to the improved policy framework put in place by the new administration. While in Lubango I was excited and impressed to meet the Vice-Dean for Research at the Huila Polytechnic Insitute, who wants to establish a seed production and seed company management course at his institute, and even invited me to help out as a guest lecturer!
So, yeah, it’s all-in on seed systems development in Angola. Donor institutions interested in African agriculture should pay heed. This one is primed for major impact.