LSB: The source of alternative seed supply

Contributed by : Gebrehawaria Berhane /MU-ISSD/

Wereda Endamekoni is one of the high land areas of southern zone in Tigray region. It is known for cereal production especially wheat even though farmers were affected by the lack of seed access. Before the government identified the wereda as a potential wheat cluster, farmers were active in producing, preserving and exchanging wheat crops among themselves in the absence of institutionalized seed cooperatives. Some farmers from Meswaeti Tabia tried to observe the experience of Local Seed Business (LSB) found in adjacent weredas.  Having such kind of indigenous knowledge and LSB experiences on wheat crop varieties, farmers organized themselves as LSBs mid-2013.

Biruhtesfa is one of the LSBs established with the same objective. The LSB had 50 founding members [14 females] with ETB 15,000 initial capital and 27.5 hectares of land as seed business startup.

Where Biruhtesfa is now?

After three years of engagement in seed multiplication and dissemination, Biruhtesfa currently has 114 members [30 females], over ETB 155,000 cash excluding fixed assets.   In addition, the LSB’s annual seed supply capacity increased from 358 quintals to 895 quintals in the last three years. More than those overall developments, the LSB and its members are equipped with experiences on how to multiply and disseminate quality seed for themselves and beyond.

Kahsay Hiluf is the chairperson and founding member of Biruhtesfa. Biruhtesfa is one of the 14 LSBs founding members of Hadnet Raya seed producer and marketing union cooperative PLC in the southern zone. The LSB bought one share with ETB 25,000 from Hadnet Raya seed producer union. Moreover, it has planned to buy another share with ETB 25,000 keeping the same procedures. Kahsay said that Meswaeti  Tabia has a total of 431 hectares of arable land. Out of this, 250 hectare is suitable for wheat seed multiplication. To use the opportunity, the LSB is in track to exploit the ISSD project’s capacity building efforts and financial support and also other research institutes. The training on cooperatives seed multiplication, marketing principles and advantages of having business plan given to the LSB by ISSD project staff are crucial for seed multiplication activities. The LSB is collecting certified seed from its members so as to deliver to Hadnet Raya seed producer and marketing union.

Major challenges faced

As the chairman stated, seed shortage, late seed delivery, unaffordable price, and knowledge gap among seed producer farmers are the major challenges the LSB faced so far.

Biruhtesfa and Way forward

The LSB’s future plan for 2018 includes:

  • Recruit 55 new members;
  • Prepare 12 hectares of additional land;
  • Increase the LSB’s capital to ETB 180,000;
  • Supply 1,500 quintals of seed to the union.
  • Purchase 70 quintals of basic seed and
  • Employ one professional accountant