Unlocking the potential of sweetpotato seed business in Tanzania

Tanzania ranks second in sweetpotato production in Africa, in spite of the fact that yields continue to be sub-optimal due to challenges such as poor soil fertility and use of virus-infected seed. However, the largest challenge to farmers is limited availability and access to high-quality seed. Most farmers in Tanzania currently recycle planting material, which is degraded and often contains pests and diseases that affect next year’s crop. But access to certified, high-quality seed could unlock the potential for higher yields, resulting in better income for farmers.

The International Potato Center is collaborating with scientists from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) in Ukiriguru to conduct trainings on quality seed production and agribusiness skills among sweetpotato seed producers at the Lake Zone Tanzania.

The new seed producers will buy pre-basic seed from TARI, who will guide them through the steps of seed multiplication according to the quality standard protocols set by the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).

This work is supported by the Sweetpotato Genetic Advances and Innovative Seed Systems (SweetGAINS) project which aims to enhance adoption of quality seed of improved varieties. The project is being implemented in Bukombe district of Tanzania, the largest producer of sweetpotato in Geita region. The project is working to build and strengthen markets for improved sweetpotato varieties and use of quality seed. SweetGAINS provides an opportunity to develop a vibrant sweetpotato seed industry by facilitating the dissemination and uptake of early generation seed (EGS) through links between TARI and commercial seed producers in Bukombe.

Upgrading the sweetpotato seed marketing system requires a reformation in the development and production of EGS as well as skill development among local seed producers. In July 2021, SweetGAINS held an agribusiness training for commercial seed producers (CSPs) in Bukombe, covering good practices for commercial production of quality seed including agronomic practices, pest management and business skills.

Participants in a business skill building workshop sponsored by SweetGAINS in Bukombe, Tanzania. (photo: K. Ogero/CIP)

Fifteen commercial seed producers were trained in good agricultural practices (GAPs) and essential business skills, such as the 4Ps of marketing: product, place, promotion and price. The trainees were introduced to the Business Model Canvas, a tool that helps entrepreneurs visualize, assess, and plan their businesses. A representative from TOSCI was on-hand to discuss the registration and seed business guidelines required by the national government to ensure production of high-quality seed.

Uptake of quality seed among farmers will lead to high yields and likelihood for increased willingness to pay for quality seed. This will have a positive effect on demand for pre-basic seed because the seed producers will purchase more seed from TARI.

Authors: Saadan Edson, Kwame Ogero, Hadija Musa, and Srinivasulu Rajendran.