Driving with our host and national consultant, Mr Ibrahima Diallo, from the capital city of Conakry to the agricultural research station of Koba, situated 150km further North, in maritime or lower Guinea, what strikes a newcomer like myself is the natural beauty, tropical forest, and of course you get just a glimpse of the plentiful of natural resources the country has to offer. Indeed, with rainfall varying from 1300 mm in “High Guinea” to 4000 mm in “Lower Guinea”, there are many above-ground water sources all over the country and immense underground water resources. It comes as no surprise, then, that Guinea even provides water sources for some of the neighboring countries.
I was very well received by the National Director of Agriculture, Mr Lamine Touré, who was very enthusiastic and eager to start working with Seed Systems Group to improve the seed supply system in Guinea. Rice is by far the leading cultivated crop and the most-consumed staple food in the country. During a very interesting meeting with Dr. Karinko Magassouba, the Technical Director of the Institute for Agricultural Research of Guinea (IRAG), this was highly stressed, and like my good friend Ibrahima reminded me jokingly, there is rice, again rice, and always rice. I did get the picture… in fact, most of the rice breeding takes place in the Koba Research Station and in that region, rice fields are impressive and a beauty to watch, with over 5000 ha of irrigated rice fields stretching out as far as eye can see. Nerica varieties are popular but the ‘M6’ variety – a local variety from IRAG yielding 5-6 tons/ha – is becoming more and more popular. Rice seed production is also well-organized in this region of Guinea, with approximately 1,000 seed producers organized into big cooperatives, with the main constraint being a lack of financial resources. Other crops such as maize are also highly important.
With all its extraordinary natural resources, especially water and fertile soil, the Guinean Government, through its National Program of Agriculture Development (PNDA), wants Guinea to become an agricultural powerhouse in the region. To reach this goal, the government is fully aware of the importance of a strong seed system and is assisting actors in the seed supply chain through fiscal exonerations, application of newly adopted seed laws, new seed multiplication programs, etc. From my meetings with the different actors at the Direction of Agriculture or from exchanging with scientists and extension agents involved in the seed industry in Koba it was clear that a strong seed system is a national and farmer priority and that a collaboration with SSG is highly anticipated.