MEDA is developing cassava seed distribution systems in the Western and Coastal regions of Kenya. Through this project, MEDA aims to improve the cassava root yields, food security and economic livelihoods for Kenyan farmers.
The VIRCA Plus Cassava Seed Distribution project is implemented in partnership with the Donald Danforth Crop Science Center (USA) and funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Feed the Future initiative.
The goal of the VIRCA Plus project is to develop farmer-preferred cassava plants cultivars that are resistant to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) for delivery to East and Southern African small-scale farmers. These improved seeds can then increase cassava root yields, food security, and economic livelihoods.
MEDA is leading the delivery component of VIRCA Plus activities in Kenya. By working collaboratively with the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), MEDA is coordinating the development of a seed distribution pilot program in the Western and Coastal cassava growing regions of Kenya.
Cassava is an important root and tuber crop that is a critical driver of food security and poverty elimination. This is aligned with Kenya’s national development priorities. Despite the importance of the cassava sub-sector in contributing to Kenya’s economic transformation agenda, the sector is limited by a lack of quality seed, pests and diseases, inefficient markets, lack of an enabling environment, and a general underperformance of market players. These limitations undermine the immense potential of the sector to achieve exponential economic growth and transform the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers and contribute to food security amidst increasing consumer demand.
The greatest threat to improved cassava production and yields has been Cassava Brown Streak (CBSD) and Mosaic (CMD) diseases, which have been responsible for cutting production by more than 80% and further threatening the food security of millions of people in Kenya and across Africa. The Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) Plus project aspires to meet this challenge by developing and delivering CBSD and CMD resistant seeds to farmers in Kenya and other African countries.
MEDA has been developing and refining models in cassava seed distribution for nearly 10 years beginning with a pilot project in Tanzania in 2012. The system is based upon a model of cassava seed production by formal Cassava Seed Entrepreneurs (CSEs). MEDA is adapting this seed distribution model in Kenya under VIRCA Plus. To achieve this, MEDA is working with various actors in the cassava industry including KALRO, IITA, KEPHIS, Ministry of Agriculture, county governments, development organizations, and CSEs, among others.
CSEs are innovative farmers with an entrepreneurial spirit willing to venture into formal cassava seed production, open to learning, and driven by greater profits. MEDA will train CSEs in business management and agronomic practices. Farmers will then be exposed to new and improved cassava varieties through demonstration farms and connected to CSEs to access quality cassava stems paying special attention to women and youth.
To sustainably improve the quality of cassava seeds, MEDA is working with core seed actors to facilitate the development of cassava seed protocols and regulations. In addition, MEDA is providing equitable employment opportunities in the seed system especially for women and young people, by using specific, evidence-based strategies for their inclusion in seed delivery.