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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tanzania holds a special place in our hearts. This started in 2002 when we began with seed production in Arusha. We chose this location because of the optimal climate conditions for the production of high-quality seeds.
Releasing a new hybrid is very rewarding
Bertha Beganyi has been working for Rijk Zwaan since 2014. She is responsible for selection of hot peppers. In her role, she can continuously surprise the market – and sometimes even herself.
Seeing is believing
Robert Tiemtoré works on product development for Rijk Zwaan in Burkina Faso. Here, vegetables are very popular, but the technical expertise of growers is rather low. A local approach is needed to improve this situation. Besides selecting locally adapted varieties, the challenge is to reach the large group of small-scale growers.
Together we try to fill the knowledge gap
Elijah Mwashayenyi is Managing Director of SEVIA, a public-private partnership that aims to develop the vegetable industry in Africa by introducing hybrid varieties and technology and also increasing growers’ technical knowledge.
Now is the time to invest
Jacqueline Mkindi is CEO of the Tanzanian Horticultural Association which represents 25,000 growers throughout the country. Its goal is to develop and promote the horticultural industry. Now there is real momentum, she urges that this is no time to sit back and relax.
A gene bank shouldn’t be a museum
Marco Wopereis is director general of the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), an international non-profit research and development institute specialised in vegetables. He shares Rijk Zwaan’s conviction that vegetables play an important role in the future development of Asia and Africa.