Women in seed systems in Africa: Sylvia Horemans

By: Rahma I Adam, Florence Sipalla, Pauline Muindi and Vongai Kandiwa

The maize seed sector in eastern and southern Africa is male-dominated. Most seed companies operating in the region are owned and run by men. Often access to land and financial capital can be a constraint for women who are keen on investing in agriculture. However, there are women working in this sector, breaking social barriers, making a contribution to improving household nutrition and livelihoods by providing jobs and improved seed varieties.

The gender team within the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Socioeconomics Program interviewed 9 women involved in the seed business in this region as part of a collection of stories that will be published as a book this May. In honor of International Women’s Day, held March 8, 2019, the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and CIMMYT would like to share some of their stories to recognize these women—and many others like them—and highlight the important work that women do in seed systems in Africa.

This is Sylvia Horemans, and this is her story:

Sylvia Horemans started Kamano Seeds in April 2004 together with her late husband Desire Horemans. The company derives its name from a stream that runs through their farm in Mwinilinga, Zambia. Kamano means a stream that never dries, aptly describing the growth the company has enjoyed over the years, enabling it to capture 15% of the country’s seed market share.  Silvia became the company’s Chief Executive Officer in 2016. 

Scouting for Fall Armyworm video: Nepali translation released

The recent release of the Nepali version of the 3-D animation video “How to identify & scout Fall Armyworm,” will help the farming community in Nepal prepare for and mitigate the effects of the potential arrival of this devastating insect pest.

Originally from the Americas, Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) was identified in Africa in 2016 and quickly spread to 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where it caused major crop damage. The pest was first detected in India in 2018, where it is causing significant loss to farmers in Karnataka and other Southern Indian states. The ongoing spread of the pest in Asia was confirmed in early 2019 when it was detected in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. While the pest has not yet been detected in Nepal, it is important that farmers are able to identify the insect pest and learn what to do if they encounter it on their farms.

Machine learning for smarter seed selection to reduce risks for Mexican maize farmers

A Mexican farming family poses beside their maize harvest in Campeche, Mexico. Machine learning for smarter seed selection will help farmers get the right seed for their geograhic area, increasing yields. Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and BioSense Institute jointly won the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Inspire Challenge in 2018 for machine learning for smarter seed selection. This project, which is piloted with maize farmers in Mexico, will help ensure that farmers are getting the best seed variety possible for their farm, allowing them to reduce risk, save money and improve their yields and food security.