The story of Elijah
‘Focus on more than just the seeds’
Seeds of Expertise for the Vegetable Industry of Africa, that is what SEVIA literally means. Elijah Mwashayenyi is Managing Director of this project in Tanzania, in which Rijk Zwaan is one of the partners. Elijah, who has been involved in SEVIA right from the start in 2014, explains the project goals.
Knowledge is essential
“Seed companies produce and sell their seeds all over the world. Many growers in Africa lack the right skills to produce crops effectively. They are often focused on the seeds alone. That’s why it is essential to transfer knowledge about better production techniques. Furthermore, growers can generate a higher income by investing in better seeds and more efficient techniques. For that reason, Rijk Zwaan and East-West Seed decided to jointly focus on training African farmers, and that’s how SEVIA came about.”
Seeing is believing
“Our guiding principle is ‘seeing is believing’. We set up demo fields on the growers’ own land so that they can see for themselves how better techniques benefit their crops. We then organise demo days which often attract between 40 and 100 local farmers. So far, we’ve held 979 demos and have reached more than 39,000 farmers, which is a lot more than the 30,000 we initially had in mind.”
Besides Rijk Zwaan and East-West Seed, the Dutch government and Wageningen University & Research are also involved in the project. “The government provides financial funding, and the other partners mainly contribute their knowledge and expertise. We also treat the growers as our partners. Ultimately, this approach is creating a more mature sector that benefits everyone.”
Elijah has noticed that the project is starting to pay off. “We’re seeing a strong rise in the number of greenhouses in Tanzania. Growers are increasingly using efficient techniques such as drip irrigation, and the use of hybrid seeds is growing too. They produce a higher yield and are resistant against certain diseases, which reduces the need for crop protection agents. And particularly importantly: the use of technology is attracting young people into horticulture. That’s contributing to the prospect of a sustainable future for vegetable production in Tanzania.”
Elijah firmly believes that an efficient and productive harvest requires not only high-quality seeds but also knowledge. At Rijk Zwaan we provide both – in Africa and worldwide, together with our partners.
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