From Seed to Harvest – Changing the Way Africa Farms
Josephine Okot is on a mission: To single-handedly improve the quality of agriculture – and thereby the quality of life – for farmers in Uganda, and, if she gets her way, for people across the African continent.
Josephine started Victoria Seeds in 2004, on the premise that if one starts with something small, but high quality, the returns grow – literally- for all involved. With her unique seeds, she and her team scour the countryside, teaching farmers one by one about crop production, growth, and the importance of starting small – with the right tiny seed.
Josephine has shown remarkable results in just a few short years. Although cash-strapped, her marketing and agri-business savvy and pure determination keeps her and her business going. The small farmers that Victoria Seeds targets are responsible for 90% of the output of the entire country. The fact that everyone – from farmers to consumers to business investors – can see her results in outstanding harvests speaks volumes for Victoria Seeds.
And her Herculean efforts to provide sustainable agriculture have not gone unnoticed. In 2007, Victoria Seeds was awarded the Yara prize*, recognized to companies working toward for a Green Revolution Africa. The prize helped defray some of her operating and research costs, and it has provided the impetus to develop seed research centers; transferring the seed technologies directly into the hands of farmers.
The Company has established over 200 seed production centers contracting to 800 smallholder farmers who can then produce the seeds themselves.
Proving herself once again, Victoria Seeds was awarded the Investor of the Year Prize by the Uganda Investment Authority. And in January, the First Lady of Uganda commissioned a new research facility for seed development, hopefully ending Africa’s dependence on seed imports.
But, not content to rest on her laurels, she has formed with four other women professionals, Seeds for Development, developing a program for offering micro-credit to female farmers so they can afford the first seeds, reduce costs and increase much-needed financial security throughout the countryside.
It’s said that behind every blade of grass is an angel whispering, ‘Grow.” Surely, if Josephine Okot gets her way, underneath every seed planted in Africa you will find one of her team doing the very same thing.
About Josephine Okot:
Josephine Okot has extensive experience in agribusiness, playing a leadership role in the harmonization of seed policies and laws in Eastern Africa. She has served as Chairperson of the Uganda Seed Trade Association and on the Board of Directors of key institutions and industry Associations such as the Uganda Investment Authority, the African Seed Trade Association and the Kampala Industrial and Business Park.
Through her work she has made significant contributions to the reduction of hunger and poverty in Africa through agricultural development.
Learn more about Victoria at www.victoriaseeds.com , and www.seedsfordevelopment.org
*Yara is a fertilizer and chemicals company working with farmers and industry. Learn more at www.yara.com
Interview written by Lisa R. Tucci, Artineraries (www.artemediacomm.com/ )