Solving quality seeds shortages through farmer-led seed multiplication

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What is the Innovation?

Farmer-led seed multiplication is a process whereby farmers use certified seeds on their farm to produce clean seeds that can be used by other farmers as alternatives to the often unaffordable and unavailable certified seeds. The production of clean seeds by farmers is done following guidelines from farmer training. Clean seeds can be re-used a limited number of times (1-3) following good agricultural practices (GAP), making them affordable while maintaining their quality.

Key Challenges Addressed

Like many other input providers across Sub Saharan Africa, Syngenta operates in a market where smallholders access 90% of their potato seeds through informal channels (e.g. farm-saved seeds and seeds purchased from local markets, neighbours, and relatives). The continuous recycling of seeds negatively impacts agricultural productivity due to increased prevalence of pests and diseases as well as compromised seed quality. Insufficient access to good quality seeds is  a dominant reason for low potato yields in Kenya, where only 1% of potato crop land area is planted with certified seeds. Access is limited due to poor availability and high costs. Syngenta’s efforts in supporting farmer-led seed multiplication to produce clean seeds in the absence of certified seeds can improve the affordability and quality of seeds, boosting productivity and farmer incomes. This increases farmers’ incentive to purchase quality fertilizer and crop protection, such as that of Syngenta, to take care of their investment and further enhance productivity and income.

How it Works

How it works seed multiplication

Tips for Replication


  • Restrictions may apply for multiplication processes and clean seed sales through formal markets. Consult National regulatory frameworks.

Best Practices

  • Soil testing to mitigate risk of soil degradation when using agrochemicals for production of clean seeds
  • Aligning seed varieties with market demand
  • Bundling input support with market access to ensure farmers can continue to afford using clean seeds
  • Distributing clean seeds within farmer groups for own use and avoiding commercial seed selling (legal grey area)

Enabling Conditions

  • Initial access to certified seeds
  • Group membership enables farmers to collectively invest in certified seeds (often delivered in bulk) and gives access to Syngenta's seed multiplication training
  • Producing clean seeds requires economically resilient farmers to deal with volatility of input prices

Business Case

Expected Outcomes for Syngenta

Increased Input Sales

Improved farmers' access to high quality seeds, as a result of seed multiplication, has boosted productivity and farmer income. Syngenta observed increased motivation among these farmers to invest in their farms. Farmers became more likely to seek out higher quality inputs like Syngenta products, boosting Syngenta's sales by 30%.

Potential repeat customers

Syngenta's approach to showcasing seed multiplication and improved yields using demo plots has been key for proof of concept and to reach more farmers. It has boosted farmers' interest in seed multiplication and the use of clean seeds coupled with Syngenta products. Besides increased sales, Syngenta has noticed an increase in farmer trust, potentially to repeat customers.

Eliminiation of Credit Risk

The increase in produce quantity and quality has enabled farmers to secure contracts with off-takers. In turn, this has unlocked tripartite finance agreements between Syngenta, financial institutions and farmers, which has further increased uptake of Syngenta products on credit without Syngenta having to assume credit risk.

Impact Case

Higher Yields

Farmers reported increased access to improved seeds with clean seeds being  available in their region at a lower cost than certified seeds (2000-2500Ksh/kg for clean seeds compared to 2000-4000Ksh/kg for certified seeds). Since using clean seeds, farmers reported around a 50% increase in yields due to better quality seeds and decreased pest and disease prevalence, which boosted their income. 

Increased decision making power for women

Syngenta's seed multiplication support including GAP training has proven especially beneficial for female smallholders as it has increased their intra-household decision-making power. Women described that it is easier for them to convince their husbands to invest in using clean seeds if they can base their arguments on the knowledge acquired during the training.

Improved Market Access

The clean seeds produced in the multiplication models are aligned with commercial varieties, which to date, has enabled 91 farmers to secure market contracts. This reduced their dependency on brokers, who dictate low prices, relying on farmers' lack of off-take options to complete their sales- Additionally, brokers do not offer a per kilogram price, but rather a fixed price per bag. In this way, access to structured markets can boost farmer incomes and contribute to income stability.

Next on the learning Agenda

Investigate persistent challenges and potential risks of the farmer led seed multiplication model:

  • How can farmers make sustainable business from multiplying seeds when selling clean seeds through formal channels considered a "legal grey area"? What is the business case for farmers if they were to operate as a licensed seed multiplier?
  • What are the most effective approaches to closing the seed gap in the sector?

Data Sources & Disclaimer

Information is based on IDH’s Service Delivery Model (SDM) analysis for Syngenta including data Syngenta and 316 farmers (information is available on our methodology for SDM Analyses and Farmer Surveys). Additionally, company interviews and focus groups with farmers have been held since the start of Technical Assistance (2021) during which the innovation is tested and scaled. A longer time span and additional data are needed to verify and quantify impacts. Farmfit will conduct an end-line assessment of the company’s SDM and farmer livelihoods based on a repeat data collection at company and farm level.