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.
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
(CIMMYT) is offering a new set of improved maize hybrids to partners in eastern
and southern Africa and similar agro-ecological zones, to scale up production
for farmers in these areas.
When maize lethal necrosis (MLN) was first reported in Bomet County, Kenya, in September 2011 and spread rapidly to several countries in eastern Africa, agricultural experts feared this emerging maize disease would severely impact regional food security. However, a strong partnership across eight countries between maize research, plant health organizations and the private seed sector has, so far, managed to contain this devastating viral disease, which can wipe out entire maize fields. As another emerging pest, the fall armyworm, is making headlines in Africa, African countries could learn a lot from the initiatives to combat MLN on how to rapidly respond to emerging crop pests and diseases.