MASA Brand Launch

On Thursday last week ICRISAT and its partners launched MASA, the Malawi Seed Alliance.  For the last year I have been representing CAS in developing the alliance and the brand for ICRISAT. For background on this initiative see http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/ip-issues-in-the-launch-of-masa-–-the-malawi-seed-alliance/   

Six months ago, we left ICRISAT and its partners with an alliance, a brand, a logo and a general plan.  Since then, the partners have – as we had hoped they would – taken ownership of the project, and have determined that the brand and associated trade mark should be held in trust for the benefit of the Malawian agricultural sector and, more specifically, small holder farmers and seedcos. The umbrella brand will be available to any seed company that meets ethical guidelines and is distributing certified seed. This is an exciting evolution, and may well be a “first”.   

Agro dealers and seed companies have been consulted as the project gained momentum, and the launch was focused on small holder farmers who will benefit from the increased availability of high quality, certified legume seed.  Benefits include raising nutritional standards within Malawi (the basic diet of maize has led to high rates of malnutrition) and a ground nut crop that NASFAM is selling to European buyers as Fair Trade products at $1,100/ton.   

The membership has expanded, and now includes:   

  • ICRISAT
  • National Smallholder farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM)
  • Association of Seed Multiplication Action Group (ASSMAG)
  • Agri-Inputs Suppliers Association of Malawi (AISAM)
  • Rural Market (RUMARK) Agro-dealers
  • Key entrepreneurs (provides seed marketing links to retail multiples, e.g. Peacock)
  • Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM)
  • Seed Services Unit (Government Seed Quality Regulatory body)

These bags show the MASA logo (top), the ICRISAT logo (bottom right) and the logo of the seed company that is distributing the seed (in this case, Peacock). Planting instructions are provided on the back of the bag, and participating dealers have received training so that they can help farmers get the most out of the seeds.

 Agro dealers who have participated in one of the sub-projects[1] (small-scale, localized seed multiplication) are about to harvest their first crop of certified ground nut seed and are excited about the MASA seed bags that have been distributed.   

 The launch event was well attended;  in addition to many of the partners (see photo below) we had an audience consisting of the press (newspapers and TV) and about 75 farmers and agro dealers from the Mchingi district.  The Irish Ambassador was extremely supportive of the project; he observed that there was little point in funding research without a market outreach component to ensure that innovations reach those who need them.   

MASA launch event. From left to right: Moses Siambi (ICRISAT Country Director), Blessings Botha (Agricultural Advisor, Irish Aid), Liam MacGabhann (Irish Ambassador), Felix Sichali (ICRISAT Project Manager), Fred Kwawalewale (Executive Director, AISAM), Felix Jumbe (Secretary-General, STAM)

 

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Andrew Daudi, addressed the gathering and a spirited dialog ensued in which many of the farmers aired their grievances.  But two comedians, Chindime and Samalani, acted out a satiric skit involving farmers, agriculture and MASA which was highly entertaining, and the event wound up on a high note.   

 Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP   


[1] For other spinoff projects, see: http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/seed-infotech-critical-data-on-seed-soon-to-be-available-in-malawi/ and http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/genetic-markers-for-seed-purity/

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7 responses to “MASA Brand Launch

  1. Blessings Botha

    Great to hear the compliments that MASA is eventually launched and the government through the PS (MOAFS) is very supportive. Lets continue to flag that certified seeds has to be the norm -defenately all seeds under subsidy programme has to be certified, and the government has aggreed to that this year!

  2. Peter, kudos to you and ICRISAT…. positive impact from the CG is quite refreshing news!

  3. I hear, you Linda. And thank you! We had hoped – and still hope – that projects like this could provoke some more interest and action from other Centres. But it seems that the only way to make these projects work is to be able to look at the whole value chain and not just one part of it. And, Blessings – I see the new seed rule in the subsidy program as being proof positive that this project is having real impact!

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  5. Congratulations indeed!!
    I wonder though what “ethical guidelines” are and who has set them up. Any more information on this? Thanks!

  6. Thanks! The “owners” will develop those guidelines…but one, for sure, will be that only certified seed goes into the MASA bags! Another would be that a MASA certified dealer would agree that no untrained (product info & technical guidance) sales assistants would ever serve customers.

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