Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial Brings High-Quality Seed to Collaborators and Smallholder Farmers

Good Nature Co-Founders Sunday Silungwe (left) and Carl Jensen (right) met with Soybean Innovation Lab last week about the Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials. The trials formally bring 30-60 commercial varieties from around the world onto the fields of private and public cooperators. (Image credit: Good Nature Agro)

(May 24, 2018) - A seed company without foundation seed is like a house builder with only one set of architectural plans to sell homeowners.

Soybean seed companies need to offer many varieties to serve the various needs of farmers that arise from differing geographies, rainfall patterns, elevations, cropping plans, levels of land access, disease threats and markets. For Good Nature Agro, a social enterprise in Zambia geared towards helping generate income for smallholder farmers, it is critical to have access to high-quality seed varieties. The seed availability problem faced by Good Nature Agro is not limited to Southern Africa, but is repeatable across hundreds of local soybean seed companies across all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last week, Soybean Innovation Lab Director Peter Goldsmith and Associate Director Courtney Tamimie visited with Good Nature Agro to address this problem through SIL’s Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials. Together with partners the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), SIL operates a large public-private commercial trial program, currently in Mali, Malawi and Kenya, and expanding to Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ghana in 2019. 

The Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials formally bring 30-60 commercial varieties from around the world onto the fields of private and public cooperators like Good Nature Agro. In its simplest form, the trials provide a new marketplace where sellers (breeders with high performing soybean varieties) and buyers (local seed companies) come together in the field to look over new products to bring to market. 

Buyers like Good Nature Agro gain access to some of the best genetics in the world so they can better serve their farmer customers, and in turn, their farmer customers can thrive. Private and public soybean breeders too win as they now have access to royalty streams. They can use these royalties to fund research and development, and respond to the many new disease, climate and quality challenges facing African soybean farmers in the coming years.

Learn more about SIL's work with the Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials.

Visit the Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials website.