From simple cultivators to seed multipliers: Successes from the Farmers Assistance Program

Written by Lydia Mpundu     November 20 2020 at 3:04 PM

In the villages of Muombe and Kilongo, five farmers from Kinsevere’s Farmers Assistance Program (FAP) have begun their journey to become maize seed producers. Being meticulous farmers, they ensured even the smallest details were covered when developing the seeds. After months of hard work, the seeds were ready to be delivered to their peers.

The farmers have participated in the FAP since 2006, however it wasn’t until 2012 that they started to take an interest in intensive agriculture. With the first phase of farming completed, the farmers turned their attention to the next step in agriculture. They followed the advice of the Kinsevere agricultural experts during field workshops to learn how to transition from traditional agriculture to mechanised farming techniques, and from there to seed production. Seed production is an activity that is different from anything the participants in the FAP had seen before.

During the last agricultural season, Kinsevere mine helped the farmers make the transition. A concession of seven hectares was given to the seed producers in Muombe village, and one hectare in Kilongo village to multiply corn seeds. The parental seeds, however, were cultivated by Kinsevere on land in Muombe village.

Maize seed production requires geographic isolation from all other maize crops. Every day, our agronomists monitored the operations to make sure that the farmers respected the process and that the quality of the seed was assured.

Throughout the growing period, Kinsevere held discussions with the farmers. Topics discussed included the choice of plot, its isolation to avoid any contamination by unwanted pollen carried by the wind and the preparation of the soil, and the choice of the seed which is of the Unilu variety produced locally by the University of Lubumbashi. They also discussed sowing, fertilisation, maintenance, the right time to harvest, conditioning of seeds and how to store them correctly. 

Eleven months after sowing, Agnès, one of the farmers, breathed a sigh of relief, recognising the task has not been easy. “We had to begin by mastering the sowing to be sure of fertilisation. Afterwards we had a job of purifying the off-types in the field to obtain the best possible purity. When weeding, all the weeds were removed,” she said.

The five seed producers produced 12.7 tonnes of maize seed on eight hectares, and yielded over 750kg of maize per hectare, a strong result for a first harvest.

All of the seeds produced were purchased by the Kinsevere mine and distributed in November to over 300 local smallholders. The provincial minister of agriculture, Mr Aers Kayumba, present at the event, congratulated the seed producers for this awareness to favour local consumption in this pandemic.

While they belong to a group that is yet to be officially registered, they have hopes to become a legally recognised seed producing association soon. For them, growing maize will not only be a subsistence activity but soon an opportunity to create a small community seed business.