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Breeding for Africa

Rijk Zwaan is active in the whole of Africa. To develop the true potential of this special continent, we take a long-term approach. We have invested in a breeding station and have consciously chosen to develop hybrid varieties only.


The focus on hybrids entails serious investments from growers, but it also means higher yields and better quality. Helping the African vegetable sector to develop requires strong varieties, better technical knowledge and plenty of patience. This approach will help small-scale growers to play a key role in building a sustainable food supply in Africa. Our ambition is to contribute to increasing the availability of healthy vegetables and to help African growers generate a better income for themselves.

The story of Ben, Kees and Marco

'Taking responsibility'

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Rijk Zwaan Afrisem

At our Rijk Zwaan Afrisem breeding station in Arusha, Tanzania, we develop hybrid varieties for African vegetables: African eggplants, African kale and chinense peppers. In addition, we breed semi-determinant tomatoes. Furthermore, varieties from our international assortment are being evaluated in terms of their suitability for cultivation in East and West Africa. We employ a staff of 70 people and we have 20 hectares of farmland including trials fields, greenhouse facilities and isolation blocks that we combine with modern facilities from within the Rijk Zwaan group. Our demo field enables us to showcase and discuss our assortment and growing methods all year round.

The story of Bertha

‘Releasing a new hybrid is very rewarding’

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Commercial approach

Our seeds in Africa are sold via a number of sales subsidiaries (in South Africa, Morocco, Egypt and Tanzania) and an extensive network of distributors and product development managers. In many areas, farmers are still in the process of getting to grips with the basics of vegetable production. That is why we have a team of experienced crop advisors and product development specialists who are focused on transferring their knowledge to growers. Being right at the heart of the market, they can give expert advice that is tailored to local circumstances.

The story of Robert

'Seeing is believing'

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Transfer of technical knowledge

African growers require more than good varieties alone. In fact, good varieties are just the start because there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of growing techniques and marketing activities too. Because we need scale and local expertise to increase the impact, we actively seek collaboration with government bodies, local growers’ associations and knowledge institutes all over Africa. We are happy to share our knowledge and expertise in long-term projects such as AIM, SEVIA, Horti-Impact and Smart.

The story of Elijah (SEVIA)

'Together we try to fill the knowledge gap'

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Developing the market together

In terms of logistics, finance, quality, marketing and entrepreneurship, there is still a lot to improve in African horticulture. By being close to the grower, we want to share our findings and exchange ideas with governments, horticultural suppliers, micro-finance institutions and other stakeholders. Amongst other things, we try to connect growers to banks, suppliers and market organisations so that they can professionalise their business. Their communities will subsequently benefit too via a boost to the local economy.

The story of Jacqueline (TAHA)

'Now is the time to invest'

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Promoting vegetable consumption

Consumption of vegetables is the most sustainable strategy to overcome micronutrient deficiencies. To promote vegetables in Africa, we realise it is important to offer local crops with varieties that are suited to the local climate. Therefore we make use of plant material from institutes such as the World Vegetable Center. Furthermore, we participate in projects like the Amsterdam Initiative against Malnutrition (AIM) that brings different stakeholders together to improve food and nutrition security through a broad portfolio of projects.  

The story of Marco (WorldVeg)

‘A gene bank shouldn’t be a museum’

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