ISU Seed Science Center, University of Nairobi to establish African seed institute

AMES, IA - Iowa State University seed scientists are working with the University of Nairobi and other groups to increase food security and reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with help from a new grant from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA works to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families across the African continent lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.

Through AGRA's $4.49 million grant over three years, ISU's Seed Science Center, the University of Nairobi (UoN), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and private business experts are establishing a Seed Enterprise Management Institute at the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences in Kabete, Kenya.

Seed Science Center Director Manjit Misra, AGRA President Namanga Ngongi and ISU Distinguished Fellow David Lambert collaborate on the creation of a seed institute during a visit to AGRA headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, in Sept. 2009.

The institute's goal is to eradicate food insecurity through capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa, where seed supply chains are lacking or inadequate. The institute will also provide seed training to graduate students who pursue plant breeding in African universities, support the production of improved seed varieties and create a web-based network for information exchange on seed technology.

"The idea for the seed institute started when AGRA President Dr. Namanga Ngongi and ISU President Geoffroy committed to collaborate on seed issues in Africa during the dedication ceremony of our center's expansion," said Manjit Misra, seed science center director.

"Today that idea has come to fruition. By working together to create this outstanding facility, and by combining our resources to educate and train professionals in the seed industry in Africa, we will build an infrastructure based on excellence. This effort will, no doubt, culminate in tremendous progress towards the advancement of the sustainability of farmers on the continent," he said.

The seeds of the project were planted when Namanga Ngongi (right) spoke at the ceremony for the opening of the expanded ISU Seed Science Center in Oct. 2008. Here Ngongi and ISU President Gregory Geoffroy exchange a symbolic basket of seeds at the event.

Faculty and staff of ISU's Seed Science Center will provide the guidance and assistance for the physical design and construction of the institute including the seed conditioning, storage and drying facilities; training facilities; and a seed laboratory.

"ISU and the UoN will work together to create and facilitate learning modules and specialized workshops on seed testing, seed conditioning and storage, information management, quality assurance and seed policies and regulations -- particularly geared towards seed business," said Joe Cortes, leader of the Global Seed Program.

"AGRA and Iowa State University both have the commitment and the understanding to improve the livelihoods of African farmers," said David Lambert, distinguished fellow at Iowa State University. "We must begin with access to high quality seed."

The Seed Science Center at Iowa State University houses the largest comprehensive public seed laboratory in the world. In the past 12 years, the center's Global Seed Program has conducted international projects on seed policy and regulations in more than 70 countries around the world. Currently the program has ongoing projects in 30 countries in Africa. For more information about the Seed Science Center at Iowa State University, visit