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April 21, 2008

Ugandan entrepreneur Josephine Okot on a mission to improve Africa's seed quality

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 a Green Revolution for 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 Seeds for Development with four other women professionals, 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.


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