Representatives from 11 countries and13 different institutions with sub-grants under the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) project met at the Pride Inn (Rhapta Road) in Nairobi for two intensive days 21-22 September 2017.
Without pre-basic seed (i.e. the disease-free cuttings (planting material) maintained in screenhouses), the subsequent stages in the seed system do not work well, viruses accumulate in varieties and yields go down over time. The speed of this decline is determined by the degree of virus resistance a variety has.
Each institution presented progress on implementing their current business plans for making pre-basic seed a sustainable business. An important planning tool in the business plan is the multiplication calendar. Clean, quality pre-basic seed may take between 9-12 months to produce. So the technical team uses the multiplication calendar to plan how they will meet their customers’ seed requirements at the right time of year, The business plan also has a detailed cost structure to determine the recurrent costs to produce quality pre-basic seed. Public entities have or are setting up revolving funds so that sales of pre-basic or in some cases, basic seed, are used to support future production costs. At the meeting, all participants were encouraged to engage in active listening whereby for each presentation, each person noted what they felt was a technical innovation presented, what a key question regarding the marketing approach being used should be, and the major challenge the presenting institution was facing.
The programme included a discussion about the on-going study to evaluate the level of institutionalization of the business plans for early generation seed production. This study is using a peer-to-peer review methodology to encourage critical learning across institutions. One national institution visits another, assessing the status of the technical and institutional aspects of their business plans. So far, KEPHIS (Kenya) has visited the Rwanda Agricultural Board, and the Crops Research Institute (Ghana) has visited KEPHIS. These reviews will continue through 2018.
The goal of this group is to effectively implement their business plans so that by December 2018, the NARIs can sustain pre-basic seed production using the revolving funds to cover recurrent costs Success will depend on focused marketing strategies; thus participants discussed how they could better engage and understand the seed needs of different customers. Participants also learnt to apply Ansoff’s matrix to identify the type of marketing strategy needed, depending on whether their market and products already existed or were new. NARI colleagues have now been challenged to re-focus their marketing strategies, and enter a competition which will be evaluated using Return on Investment (RoI) as an indicator. Each marketing strategy will be assessed for the amount of return in terms of increase in revenue relative to the implementation cost. The winners will be announced at the next Sweetpotato Seed Systems and Crop Management Community of Practice meeting in June 2018.
The group is technically backstopped by two CIP scientists: Srini Rajendran, an agricultural economist, and the Seed Systems Component Leader for SASHA, Margaret McEwan.
For thoughts on what they gained from the meeting, please listen to the short videos from: