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Dispatch from: The A3 Seed Project in Juba, South Sudan

By Lisa de Graaf

KIT has been working on the A3-SEED, Accelerating Agriculture and Agribusiness, project in South Sudan with IFDC since 2021. Nicola Francesconi, Sandra Quintero, and I recently travelled to Juba as part of the project.

Commercialising the South Sudanese Seed Sector

Since South Sudan became a sovereign state in 2011, the country’s seed sector has been dominated by seed aid, often supplied by UN agencies or NGOs. In a recent KIT study, we found, however, that most of the aid that’s delivered is often imported from abroad and does not always contain quality seeds and does little to improve the country’s economy or seed production.

The A3-SEED project’s goal is to commercialise the country’s seed sector and reduce the country’s dependence on seed aid. KIT is working with seed companies, seed out-growers, agro-dealers, and village agents to develop a comprehensive value chain for seeds while creating businesses and jobs.

The project eventually aims to reach 100,000 farming households in four hubs for stability – Bor, Rumbek, Tori, and Yambio – as well as in the outskirts of Juba. Moreover, inclusion is an important component of the project’s implementation. We aim to promote entrepreneurship amongst women and young people and reach at least 400 potential seed entrepreneurs.

Developments over the last three years

My colleagues and I joined and representatives from IFDC in a visit to the the country, to evaluate the project’s achievements in 2023. 

In terms of quality seed production, the project set up a small testing lab to improve variety testing and demo plots, field days, and radio learning shows. Additionally, around 8,000 farmers have been trained in Good Agricultural Practices. We believe such learnings will be distributed informally to reach more farmers.

Through the programme, the farmers’ access to seeds and agro-dealers has improved with the support of agro-dealers and a seed distribution network. There has also been an increase in access to support mechanisms for farmers, such as community-based storage units, tractor services, and processing machines.

We found that on the activity level, the seed companies have made important efforts to ensure they benefit women and youth, both at the level of their personnel, and the farmers they work with. However, more needs to be done. The Inclusion Team will continue working closely with them to support all their efforts and promote further inclusion initiatives, for example, through their designed Inclusive Economic Empowerment programme, targeted at women and youth out-growers and potential seed entrepreneurs. 

Stakeholder event with seed companies in Juba

Making the most of the last year

We also facilitated a stakeholder discussion with seed companies and planned forward for 2024. In the stakeholder discussion with local seed companies, a few challenges were reiterated, like their wish to improve collaborations with seed aid institutions for their distribution needs, and the need for a robust policy framework surrounding the seed market. Now, seed companies are reportedly well-linked to institutional buyers (e.g., NGOs), but only a small share is bought from local farmers or agro-dealers.

In the last year of this cycle of A3-SEED, the project will focus on the sustainability of the outcomes to create lasting impact long after the project ends and ensure the inclusion perspective. We also aim to organise more learning fairs to connect different stakeholders in the seed sector, increase farmers’ knowledge of proper farm management, and improve the country’s ability to produce and test seed varieties. 

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