Afriseed Ltd has introduced two new improved seed varieties in Zambia that may well cause a shift in smallholder agriculture , from maize mono-cropping to the more lucrative Mbereshi beans, as well as the drought-tolerant orange maize. The Mbereshi beans are rich in iron and zinc, while the orange maize variety is fortified with vitamin A.
For smallholder farmers, Mbereshi bean production is arguably a better alternative to traditional maize production. Beans cultivation is more profitable and can be sold on the open market. Since the Mbereshi bean variety is not genetically modified, there is good potential for export in the region where consumer demand for beans is high.
To guarantee adequate supply of the improved seed, Afriseed has established a seed multiplication system through smallholder contract farming arrangements in the Copperbelt and Northern Provinces. During the first buy-back round earlier this year, Afriseed bought back more seed than anticipated.
The next step is promoting farmer uptake of the improved seeds. Besides providing farmer training, Afriseed is setting up a last-mile seed distribution network of rural sales centres managed by local women entrepreneurs. At least four of these mobile distribution centres will be up and running before the start of the raining season in November.