Tag Archives: CIMMYT

Post-harvest loss, innovation and IP

Anyone who has worked in Sub-Saharan Africa will be aware that post-harvest storage losses account for as much as 35% of output.  Eliminating such losses results in an immediate effective increase in output of up to 40%.  We described one of several simple solutions for cowpea at https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/post-harvest-food-loss-wasa-the-purdue-method/

At the request of CIMMYT, CAS-IP asked me to review CIMMYT’s grain storage silo projects in Malawi and Kenya, and I met with farmers, institutional users and silo fabricators.  With years of experience in Mexico and Central America, CIMMYT had developed a technology that was appropriate for grain storage in developing countries.  This included silo design and material specification, and a training program to ensure that artisan metalworkers could both construct the silos to specification and train farmers on how to use them.

Small holder farmer Nancy Njeri (right), Kiritiri, Kenya with grain storage silo. Photo by Peter Bloch

CIMMYT’s concern was that untrained fabricators might offer inferior silos to farmers; that such silos could be ineffective, and that the reputation of the initiative would suffer as a result.  If this were to happen, uptake would be negatively affected.

Three 1800kg silos owned by the Kiritiri Producer Marketing Group. Photo by Peter Bloch

Discussions with the various actors in the value chain suggested a simple strategy.  The fabricators learned, as an integral part of their training, that quality and customer service were critical success factors.  So, if the fabricators in each country joined together to set up a Fabricator Trade Association (FTA), they could jointly apply for a trademark that could be used to identify the “approved” silos.

Just as community enforcement of a brand played an important role in the development of the Malawi Seed Alliance, it seemed highly likely that in these small tightly-knit rural farming communities the FTA would quickly find out if any non-members (untrained fabricators) were producing counterfeit silos.  Moreover, farmers, institutions and producer marketing groups I spoke to were very happy with the silos they had acquired and this suggests that community support for the status quo (buy your silo from an FTA member) would be shared at the grassroots as farmers discussed the investment among themselves.

For more information on this very simple yet innovative intervention, there are numerous online references including:



Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Africa Seed Institute to be established in Nairobi

According to a soyatech press release:

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

ISU will contribute its considerable expertise in seed and seed related technologies, and its experience in developing seed policy and regulation.  Seed is considered by many to be a key to increasing agricultural output across Africa, and enabling the free movement of seed between countries – especially within regions – is of great importance.  Regulatory reform is on the front burner for initiatives like WASA, which is linking seed companies in India with seed companies in West Africa as part of an effort to expand crop and variety availability.

This AGRA investment promotes a triple bottom line:  technology transfer (from SSU and CIMMYT); capacity-building (in Kenya and further afield) and sustainability.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Tips for Negotiating Public-Private Collaborations

My attention was drawn to this piece of news recently through the FS-Ag Biotech news portal. CIMMYT has entered into a partnership with Syngenta “to focus on the development and advancement of technology in wheat, the most internationally traded food crop and the single largest food import in developing countries. The agreement will entail joint research and development in the areas of native and GM traits, hybrid wheat and the combination of seeds and crop protection to accelerate plant yield performance.”

I sent the news to Carolina Roa, the IP manager of CIMMYT, and asked if she has tips to share with the IP community in putting together this collaboration. She had the following to say:

“To me there are a couple of key aspects…
1) having clear the centre’s expectations, needs and justifications before entering the collaboration;
2) knowing what it can contribute to the collaboration in terms of assets and looking for complementing and enhancing those assets with the ones of the collaborator;
3) having clear what it wants to deliver, to whom and how (the strategies to do it); and
4) put all these things clearly at the table when the dialogue/discussion with the possible collaborator starts.

Any potential collaborator…will appreciate that, as it facilitates, clarifies and speeds up the process. Something that we’ve found particularly helpful is to articulate these things in a key terms document that will be the basis for the discussion with the potential collaborator…Getting agreement on the key terms document takes away some of the pressure of discussing and entering into a full agreement upfront. The potential parties are more relaxed about discussing, commenting on such a document than on an already made collaboration agreement.”

I think the tips by Carolina are very useful and right on point. We speak of public-private collaborations all the time and how we need to encourage more partnerships in this direction for the benefit of small-scale developing country farmers and creating more public goods. I am sure that many out there who are reading our blog have interesting negotiation experiences to share and I encourage you to use the comment boxes below to let us know your set of tips when negotiating collaborations.

Post written by Guat Hong Teh, Legal Specialist for CAS-IP

The Improved Maize for African Soils Project and their royalty-free varieties

SciDevNet’s Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 25 February–10 March 2010 posted a link to CIMMYT about the launch in Feb 2010 of the Improved Maize for African Soils Project (IMAS).

“IMAS is being led by CIMMYT and funded with USD 19.5 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. The project’s other partners—the DuPont Business, Pioneer Hi-Bred; the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI); and the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC)—are also providing significant in-kind contributions including staff, infrastructure, seed, traits, technology, training, and know-how.”

The project is interesting for many reasons, but being the CAS-IP blog the following “IP-bit” was what caught my attention:

“The varieties developed will be made available royalty-free to seed companies that sell to the region’s smallholder farmers, meaning that the seed will become available to farmers at the same cost as other types of improved maize seed.”

The Executive Summary for the project provides some further details (see link on the bottom right of the page):

“The project will rely on local seed companies to produce and distribute seed of hybrids, and on NGOs supplying seed aid and government input subsidy programs, which often subcontract production to seed companies, to produce seed of OPVs. … Under commercial licensing arrangements in eastern and southern Africa, seed companies distributing IMAS varieties will only receive a license provided that they sell the seed at the same price as non-transgenic seed. CIMMYT will ensure that sufficient quantities of breeder seed would be produced to serve the needs of seed producers.”

Thanks to Carolina Roa for pointing me in the direction of the information I was looking for.