How do we improve farmer access to quality bean seed of improved varieties long the “last mile”?

In a new blogging series, Jean-Claude Rubyogo and Robin Buruchara of Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) reflect on their experience working to connect rural farmers to quality bean seed markets. See reflections on their work here.

Abel Byda is a former medical doctor who entered the agri-inputs business in his home town of Hydom, Mbulu district,Tanzania. His shop sells certified seed of various crops, including maize, beans, sunflowers, and pigeon pea. His business possesses two brick-and-mortar AgroVet shops, but Byda also owns a truck, enabling him to transport and sell seed in distant rural markets.

Market days are hugely important in rural settings, allowing farmers to purchase goods and services which normally can only be accessed in distant small towns. Byda’s truck allows him to transport quality seed of several improved bean varieties to “last mile” locations where bean seed would otherwise not be available or accessible.

During cropping seasons, Byda Agrovet moves continuously between rural markets according to a time table (see map). Some markets merit two visits per month. According to Byda, these “last mile” markets generate more bean seed revenue per day than his two shops in town. An average of 0.5 tons is sold per market visit. Methodically serving last mile customers, he sells around 50 tons of bean seed per cropping season in three districts (Babati, Hannang and Mbulu). Bean seed demand within these districts has persuaded him to set aside five acres for Quality Declared Seed bean seed production.

Seed system experts: in your experience, how do we strengthen seed systems that encourage entrepreneurs like Abel Byda to serve last mile markets? How do we scale efforts like this?

PABRA is all about beans. We believe that beans can improve the food security, income and health of smallholder farmers and urban dwellers across Africa, as well as contribute to improved soil fertility. We also believe that by increasing the competitiveness of bean markets, we can provide consumers with better products and contribute to the economic growth of our member countries.