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SA’s own seed pioneer takes over AFSTA

News reaching Mzansi Agriculture Talk is that renowned seed technologist, Dr Kulani Machaba, has been elected President of African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA).

This was confirmed at AFSTA Congress, held in Tunisia, Djerba, 27 February – 3 March 2022.  

AFSTA is a non-profit membership association, with approximately 100 members, comprising of seed companies, seed trade associations and industry players. 

With over 20 years of experience in the seed industry, Dr Machaba has been leading the call for all farmers to access advanced breeding technologies, to enable them to access high yielding varieties faster. 

The South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR) welcomed and supported his appointment, believing that Dr Machaba’s leadership “we will see a strengthening of seed policies enhancing seed trade in Africa” said General Manager of SANSOR, Dr Lukeshni Chetty. 

AFTSA was formed in 2000, and it is the brainchild of SANSOR, American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the NSCM Malawi. Endorsed by the African Union (AU), AFTSA is the continents only recognised ‘apex private sector seed organisation” 

Based in Kenya, the organisation since 2007 has managed to spread its tentacles and influence in the COMESA and ECOWAS bloc, thanks largely to the benevolence of USAID. 

Current AFTSA flagship projects include Alliance for the Seed Industry in Eastern and Southern Africa (ASIESA) focussed routinely on biotechnology advocacy while the Eastern Africa Seed Committee (EASCOM) is tasked to create a seed harmonisation in COMESA. 

According to SANSOR, Dr Machaba will be responsible for driving the harmonisation of ‘seed regulations’ in Africa. Major global seed corporations, all based in Kenya, have been on a collective mission to acquire a chunk of Sub Saharan African seed market. 

However, this dominant behaviour by the four seed global seed companies has been met with stiff resistance from farmers, particularly civil based aligned movement the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). 

The civil society organisation is against AFTSA harmonisation of national seed laws and exclusion of smallholder farmers in seed breeding market.  

Caught in between this geopolitical seed furore and complexity, Dr Machaba’s incumbency is expected to be eyed with careful detail and suspicion. 

On several platforms, he has often been frequently quoted for advocating farmers to access advanced breeding technologies like genome editing. 

SANSOR opined that Dr Machaba’s tenure will deliver on the organisation’s strategic goals, which is to “improve food security across the continent through access to quality seed.” 

Dr Machaba currently serves as SANSOR Intellectual Property (IP) Standing Committee. He is also a member of the leadership Team of Corteva’s Crop Protection and Seed Business divisions in Africa.

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