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New seed varieties not reaching Africa’s small farmers, study says

By Reuters

Africa’s small farmers, more than half of whom buy seeds from local informal markets, need access to improved seeds that can yield more food and cope with climate change, according to research published on Wednesday.

Innovations in food science, including seeds that produce vitamin-rich food and crops that can withstand the hotter, drier conditions due to global warming, are not reaching many of Africa’s small farmers as they are not available in local markets, researchers said.

The study, published in the journal “Food Security”, examined 10,000 seed transactions across five African countries and Haiti, and researchers said it shed light on how food production can be expanded. “Science is making improvements to crops, but they are not getting to farmers,” Louise Sperling, senior technical adviser to Catholic Relief Services who worked on the study, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Products farmers might want to choose, (including) varieties that are better resistant to climate change, aren’t accessible.”

Previously, many researchers assumed that small farmers relied on saving seeds from previous harvests, rather than purchasing them.

But the study showed about 55 percent of small farmers in Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti bought their seeds from local markets, family or friends.

”The good news here is that (small) farmers are active customers,” Sperling said.

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