Innovating Agriculture Business Models

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Zambia and Malawi: Gender Transformative Regional Seed Systems

Project Ref Number: 6924-A015

Active period and status:
This project was approved 10th June 2016 and is currently in the implementation phase which is being delivered primarily through grants to support the activities of the Graca Machel Trust (GMT) / African Women in Agribusiness (AWAB) and FutureSeeds in Zambia for basic seed production and multiplication of drought-tolerant certified seed by out-growers. In addition, technical assistance is being provided to carry out analytical work and produce reports and training materials and provide supporting services.

The objective of this project is to develop and test robust business models for the legume seed system, with the ultimate objective of improved availability and adoption of climate resilient seeds through strengthened seed systems run and managed by women seed entrepreneurs working with smallholder seed growers. This project explicitly contains one of the trade-offs already identified with regard to Vuna. Work with the GMT has less absolute potential for immediate scale-up, than some other pilot projects, but much more potential for being transformative for significant numbers of women.

Summary Approach:
This project utilises a Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) approach to improve the climate resilience of smallholder farmers by testing models for strengthening the seed production systems for OPV maize and legumes. The WEE approach involves working directly with female entrepreneurs and farmers, in their roles as key actors in specific value chains. The focus of the project will be on drought tolerant and short season legume and OPV maize varieties, in Malawi and Zambia, with the objective of increasing the uptake of CSA practices while reducing gender productivity gaps.

The Graca Machel Trust (GMT) will lead the project, building on early pilot work in Malawi and Zambia under the African Food Basket Project. The work will mainly be done through GMT’s African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB). GMT/AWAB have developed women-led community level seed production systems, working with female social entrepreneurs, in order to make good quality legume and drought tolerant varieties of seeds more available, accessible, and affordable to smallholder farmers across Malawi and Zambia. Additionally, Vuna has enlisted the support of two seed companies, one in Malawi and the other in Zambia, to test the seed business models.

Implementing partners:
The implementing partners for this Project are the Graca Machel Trust (GMT), African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) and FutureSeeds. GMT is an organisation that works across the continent to amplify women’s associations and influence governments towards the empowerment of women and the protection of children’s rights. AWAB, established and run by GMT, is a network of organisations of African women in Agribusiness promoting women’s economic empowerment through more effective participation in commercial activities of agricultural value chains. Working through a private-public partnership model, the African Food Basket Project aims to strengthen community input systems, for increased productivity in the context of climate change. The programme will pilot in the seed systems for legumes, specifically pigeon peas, cowpeas, soya and sugar beans FutureSeeds, a small private sector company, has been enlisted to test the business model.

Results / findings to date:

  • Completion of baseline survey in Malawi and Zambia. The final reports from the baseline survey were completed in June 2017. With this, the comprehensive project M&E plan will be finalized, with the appropriate data collection tools designed, tested and approved.
  • Engage consultant to develop standard operating procedures.
  • First joint AWAB Malawi and Zambia networks meeting. The first joint meeting, bringing together the participating seed companies took place in Zambia from 14 to 17 May. The meeting provided a platform for women to meet and build rapport with one another. As this is a regional project, it is important to create opportunities such as these for the network members to meet to share ideas, best practices and lessons from project implementation in the two countries. Key to this meeting was to learn and share information on key regional agreements such as the COMESA seed harmonization platform and how it relates to domestic policy and legislation in the seed sector. It was also an opportune time for the women to connect with one another and to focus on team-building and reinforce GMT’s principles of network building and membership. Through prior network interventions and meetings, it was found that story-telling is an effective medium for creating meaningful connections and sharing lessons.