Series 1.0: A step back: Re-imagining lasting solutions for feeding our population.

Well, let's face it. 

The world's population is growing by the day and by 2050 we will be singing happy Birthday to person number 9.6 billion. At that moment we'll need to have a beautiful brown chocolate cake with fresh strawberries on the icing (Oh my, just provoked my taste buds), some meals at the table and maybe or maybe not a camera to capture the smiles on every ones faces. By then food from the grocery store or wherever we'll be getting us won't be much of a hassle: home delivery is coming, people (technology by then), By then wheat, sugar, cocoa and other food ingredients will need to have been farmed.

Food comes from the farm. Food enthusiasts globally are burning the midnight oil reimagining farms of the future that no one knows how they will look like; Could be Smart farms, Vertical farms, Organic farms or maybe there wouldn't be a party after all because we did not future-proof our food systems. It is estimated that farmers globally must increase food production by 70% to meet the projected demand by then. So, with the current state of food and food systems can something be done now to welcome the future population with ease?

To the Now,

Let's begin our approach with the farm inputs. Here, focus is directed to seeds and seed quality; this being a constant factor for food production. We also need to understand how seed systems work.

A seed is a farmer's most essential input. Seeds of better quality are critical to enabling farmers raise agricultural productivity, reduce poverty and increase incomes from agricultural activities. Poor seeds affect agricultural productivity in terms of crop yield, income resilience and livelihoods of Small holders and provision of the right seed helps strengthen the agricultural production system.

There are two kinds of Seed systems namely Local and Formal seed systems. Small holder farmers are involved in local and formal kinds of seed systems.

1. Local seed systems
Local seed systems involve ways in which farmers themselves produce, disseminate and access seeds. These seeds are also referred to as open -pollinated varieties or farmer-to-farmer spread of seeds.

Farmers access seeds directly from their own harvest, through exchange and barter among friends and neighbors and local grain stores. A large percent of farmers use their own saved seed or seed obtained from other farmers in their communities. This system is not monitored or controlled by governments policies and regulations. Rather, they're guided by local technical knowledge & standards

2. Formal seed systems
A formal seed system involves a series/chain of activities that eventually lead to final better products with maintaining varietal identity and purity and produce seeds of optimal, physical and sanitary quality as its guiding principle. It is estimated that 5-10% of farmers purchase seeds produced by formal institutions (parastatal seed organizations and private seed companies) in sub Saharan Africa.

Using seeds of unsure quality is gambling with the produce you expect at the end of that harvesting period. Poor seeds limit potential yields and reduce potential growth, it also denies the crop the advantage of being able to thrive in conditions such as tolerance to unreliable rainfall, resistance to pests and diseases among others.  

Not many countries have found a sustainable solution of providing farmers with access to good quality seed and particularly those of modern varieties. Worse of, in some countries, government policies relating to regulation of seed production and price setting inhibit the emergency of private initiatives in seed production and distribution. A visit to a local farm would give answers to why most small holder farmers harvest a low yield. This is in reference to their old deeply- rooted usual practices at the farms from seed acquisition to harvest and storage of seeds. Farmers have not been shed light on when it comes to the type of seeds to be stored; so you know FAO suggests only those that only those self-pollinated and open pollinated seeds are to be stored, not hybrids.

Some puzzling questions that cross my mind as an innovator in food space are;

-How are we going to do this? Feed all these billions and billions of bellies without depleting natural resources?

-Who is at the center stage or rather the core of solution process? Do they have the necessary information?

-Is it governments, large farms, or are the solutions even more closer to us within those small family farms?

-Can we find a lasting solution for seed systems in our communities? Can these seeds be distributed just for the sake of production?

-What qualities should a seed poses in order to be used for the next planting season?

This and much more have been addressed in our next blog. Check it out for insights and answers in strengthening the Seed System and achieving Zero Hunger.