Agriterra and Enza Zaden work towards higher quality vegetable seeds in Nepal. Their partner is a federation of 40 farmers’ cooperatives.
Nepalese farmers typically grow a variety of local vegetables. What they need are well-adapted and resilient seeds that produce higher yields. The Nepalese government also wants better seed supplies for local crops. However, good quality vegetable seeds are difficult to find. Local producers usually maintain traditional working practices and lack the knowledge to improve product quality.
Pepper, mustard greens and beans
In order to improve local seed production in Nepal, Agriterra and Enza Zaden (one the world’s largest vegetable seed companies) signed a technical assistance agreement with three farmers’ cooperatives. Research was also conducted in the Makwanpur District in conjunction with a federation of 40 farmers’ cooperatives. The objective was to find out which local vegetables would be most suitable for improved seed production. “We chose mustard greens, a variety of pepper and a bean, as these are already widely consumed in the region,” explains Joep van Balen, responsible for seed improvement at Enza Zaden. “For these crops, we now want seeds of the same quality.”
The three cooperatives each selected 15 seed producers for these crops. So far, van Balen has been to Nepal twice to advise them, pointing their attention to methods of sowing the seeds, distance between plants, selection timing and fertilising. Other important learning points are how to disinfect the seeds and dry storing. “We don’t hand out blueprints. We want to demonstrate why a particular technique works better,” explains van Baalen.
Over time, and in consultation with the federation, the most successful ‘lines’ (newly emerging varieties) will be marketed. This will take at least two years. In the meantime, Agriterra and the cooperatives are looking into the issue of branding the best seeds, exploring ways to register them under a name and a unique logo. This will enable them to sell new top quality products as recognised premium vegetables.
“The Nepal project is part of efforts undertaken by Enza Zaden to deliver quality seed to professional horticulturalists,” says van Balen, adding that it also fits with the company’s ambition to be socially responsible. Enza does not have a direct interest: its own product range does not include the local seeds from Nepal. Van Baalen comments that “it is satisfying to see that horticultural famers improve their own varieties and come up with good quality seeds by themselves. Our support translates into the farmers being able to use these seeds in the future. Ultimately, consumers benefit too, as they will get better vegetables.”
Product development manager Asia, Enza Zaden