Use of high quality seeds is proven to increase crop production and farm productivity. High quality seeds are naturally bred to be higher-yielding, and are locally-adapted to resist disease, mature earlier, and respond well to fertilizer. A 2013 survey of farmers in nine countries found 8 that the majority who invested in improved crop varieties achieved yields 50 to 100 percent above local varieties. 69 percent of farmers in Kenya, 74 percent in Nigeria, and 79 percent in Mozambique said improved maize varieties had doubled harvests per hectare. Meanwhile, 79 percent of farmers in Ghana reported doubling rice yields, and 85 percent of farmers surveyed in Uganda reporting doubling yields from cowpea. When combined with effective fertilizer use improved seeds can produce even more yield.
For decades the agriculture industry in Africa has lacked a supply of improved crop varieties and a strong distribution network capable of delivering seeds to large numbers of farmers.
However, thanks to many efforts in the past decades, natural seed development has vastly improved. Groups like The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have spurred development of hybrid seeds that are appropriate for many local regions. As of 2014, their work has produced 464 new seed varieties across 15 major crop types).
Most of the world’s poorest people are smallholder farmers. There are at least 570 million
farms worldwide, and at least 475 million of these being family farms less than 2 hectares in
size. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture accounts for 64% of the labor force. In rural areas, 1
75% of people living on $1 a day work in agriculture.
Unfortunately, crop yields produced by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa remain
well below their potential. For example, cereal crops grown in sub-Saharan Africa average
1.2 tons per hectare, while the developing world average is about 3 tons/ha. It is possible to
bridge this gap. Farmers in South Asia during the “Green Revolution” implemented modern
farm practices, and between 1961-2001 increased crop yield by 145%. Smallholder farmers
in sub-Saharan Africa during that same time period increased crop yield by only 30%.
Increasing the productivity of African smallholder farms has potential to lift millions of people out of extreme poverty.
Fertilizer, when used effectively, has increased crop yields throughout most of the world. For
example, increased fertilizer use contributed to 50% of the yield growth in Asia during their
Much of the developing world’s population works in agriculture, including more than 60% of
laborers in sub-Saharan Africa. However, crop yields there are low: about 1.2 tons/ha for cereal 1
crops in sub-Saharan Africa, while the developing world average is about 3 tons/ha. Low crop
yields affect several poverty-related issues. Farmers who do not produce high yields suffer from
low profitability. Low food production and profitability can also magnify calorie deficiencies,
leading to health issues and lost productivity. ,
Fertilizer, when used effectively, has increased crop yields throughout most of the world.
However, high fertilizer costs are one factor deterring greater use in sub-Saharan Africa.
Microdosing is one proven method for applying fertilizer cost-effectively. When using
microdosing techniques, a farmer will apply a small pinch of fertilizer directly to the seed (either
when planting the seed or a short time afterward). The microdosing method uses 60-75% less
fertilizer than the traditional “broadcasting” method , , while simultaneously increasing yields by
60-50%, across a variety of soil and climatic conditions and farmer practices. However, many
farmers are unaware about microdosing techniques. Increasing education on microdosing has
potential to improve the yields for millions of farmers.