A challenge for soybean farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa is the lack of access to improved varieties of soybean seed. Farmers actually face a tripartite problem: insufficient quantities of seed, few improved varieties to choose from, and seed that does not reliably germinate.
At the heart of this problem is a classic supply-demand market failure. There is great demand for seed and improved varieties exist that could perform well in a given country. At the same time, plant breeders and seed companies in Africa and elsewhere want to sell their varieties, but are unsure how their materials will perform and aren’t connected with trustworthy local seed producers who can multiply and market their seed.
As a result, local seed producers struggle to find high quality seed to multiply and sell. The end result is that new materials aren’t tested, registered, and made available to farmers, yields suffer, and national soybean supplies remain low.
To remedy this market failure, the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) is collaborating with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to address low soybean yields in many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Together, the partnership is implementing an innovative new program of third-party testing of soybean in Sub-Saharan Africa, called the Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials.
The trials ‘fast track’ the introduction and testing of commercial soybean varieties in order to provide local seed companies, farmers, seed buyers, and others with access to a broader selection of seed than what is currently available. The program team leverages its role as a consortium of independent third parties as well as its unique access to international, regional, and national supplies of high-yielding and disease resistant germplasm. The team’s ability and experience in operating high-quality, formal trials provides a transparent platform necessary for smallholder farmers to access improved seeds that perform well in their local environments.
About The Soybean Innovation Lab
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research (Soybean Innovation Lab, SIL) is the United States Agency for International Development’s only comprehensive program dedicated to soybean research for development. The Soybean Innovation Lab is building a foundation for soybean production in Africa by developing the knowledge, innovation, and technologies to enable successful soybean production. As part of the Feed the Future initiative, the Soybean Innovation Lab works to reduce global poverty and hunger by accelerating growth in the agriculture sector through improvements in agricultural productivity among smallholder farmers.