I was welcomed to Madagascar by Mr. Mbosa Rabenasola, agronomist and agricultural consultant who has long promoted the role of both research and the private sector in achieving a Malgasy Green Revolution. Mbosa, as he is known, had come highly recommended to us by Justin Rakotoarisaona, Secretary General of AFSTA, the African Seed Trade Association, who is also Malgasy. It was a great recommendation, and Mbosa managed to organized meetings with all the key informants and officials.
Madagascar’s crop production systems are a bit special in that the country was settled nearly 2,000 years ago by mariners who had sailed across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia and began cultivating the only cereal crop they knew: rice. This, in spite of the fact that Madagascar’s soils are not your typical rice-producing soils, and Madagascar’s central plateau environment is higher and cooler than most of the world’s rice-producing environments. Partly as a result, rice yields in Madagascar have always been quite low, especially given that most fields are irrigated through ancient, gravity-fed and terraced systems.
Madagascar’s farmers are some of the hardest-working and most dedicated to their craft I have ever met anywhere. Nothing comes easy in this geographically isolated, island country off the coast of Mozambique, but the country’s farmers make up for whatever built-in challenges the country faces through their deep knowledge and mastery of local technologies, including a dizzying array of local rice land races and animal traction.
We met with a highly promising seed association-cum-seed company in the town of Sakai led by Njiva Randrianantenaina, assisted by his sons. They produce quality seed of rice, beans, maize and Bambara groundnut and function as a private seed company, selling seed in small packages directly to farmers and through agro-dealers.
We also met up with Francois Grobler, who has teamed up with Mirana Rakotovelo to form Agri-Vet, a seed and input supply company. They produced over 50 MT of maize seed in early 2019 and were getting ready to clean it using a processing plant they have been able to lease from the government, along with offices and warehouses outside the town of Sakay.
With these investments, and the longstanding commitment of FOFIFA (the national agricultural research institute), and the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Malgasy seed sector looks set to take off. Next step is to introduce new germplasm, test it, and scale it up alongside seed of current favorites.