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Western Seed Company

Increasing rural farmer productivity through specially designed hybrid maize varieties

  • Company
  • Agriculture
  • East Africa
  • 2010
  • Exited

The challenge

The agriculture sector in Kenya employs 24 million people, with 17 million farmers holding plots of less than two hectares of land each. Maize is Kenya’s staple crop. It serves as a primary food source and accounts for 14% of rural household income. Most smallholder farmers, though, use farm-saved seed (seed saved from last year’s crop), which often leads to small and irregular yields. Hybrid seeds that produce higher yields have existed for years. But adoption rates are low due to insufficient supply and a lack of appropriate marketing and distribution strategies.

The innovation

Western Seed’s hybrid maize varieties, which are designed for local conditions, can generate a 300% increase in yield over farm-saved seed. Western Seed is using Acumen’s investment to cultivate, store and distribute hybrid maize seeds and triple its seed production in five years. The company’s pioneering Direct Access Sales program markets the hybrid varieties directly to rural farmers in Kenya’s mid and lowland areas, where most farms use farm-saved seed.

The impact

Western Seed currently reaches over 300,000 farmers and has the potential to reach over one million farming households annually, and more than five million people by 2017. The use of Western Seed’s hybrid seed varieties will allow smallholder farming households to increase crop yields and income from maize crop sales.