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Entrepreneurs in the seed sector converge to explore the open source seeds concept

Farmers need to have access to seeds that enable them to develop and grow a wide variety of crops. Seed diversity does not occupy a significant place within the business models of the largest seed companies. And by using intellectual property rights (patents, Plant Variety Protection), the big players in the seed industry are eradicating seed-saving and sharing practices, diminishing the gene pool and thus reducing the world’s food security.

Hivos believes in the importance of farmers’ access to diverse and ecologically adapted seeds and the need to prevent exclusive and monopolistic rights on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and associated practices and knowledge. In this regard, Hivos and KCIC jointly hosted an open seeds forum for entreprenuers in the seed distribution network in Kenya.

The Open Source Seed Systems (OSSS) programme aims to reverse this trend by promoting the freedom to use seeds and stimulate breeding, diversification and resilience.  The programme supports concrete initiatives, learning what works and using the results in lobbying and advocacy for change.

The Disrupt! event is a competitive ideathon that brings together entrepreneurs within the agriculture/seed sector.  During the three day ideathon held in Nairobi at Strathmore Business School in February, the social entrepreneurs were supported by mentors and experts to bring their business ideas to the next level through effective pitching in the shortest time possible.

Social enterprises included community seed banks with a business arm; producer groups multiplying seeds; farmer –breeders, seed networks with a revenue model for service provisions, technology (ICT) based enterprises, ethical seed companies and private breeders.

SheFarms emerged the overall winner of all three categories – social impact, environmental impact and innovation. Social seed entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, and South Africa had an opportunity to pitch their ideas. SheFarms is a social agribusiness empowering smallholder female farmers across the developing world to improve their farming capabilities. Through the platform, they provide them with access to knowledge and reliable advice on farm management and sustainable farming techniques, as well as new market opportunities.

SheFarms Founder, Tiambi Simms and co-founder, Margot Barreveld pitched their idea of supporting women who are the backbone of agriculture with seeds to a panel of judges from Bioversity InternationalAlphaMundi Group and Kenya Climate Innovation Center (Kenya CIC).

“It was definitely a surprise, a huge surprise and we are very happy. It just continues to show that what we are doing with SheFarms makes sense and we need to keep working towards liberating the planet of gender inequality and food deficits step by step,” said Tiambi. The winners will be having a follow up meeting with an investor. 

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