Surveys done in early 1990’s indicated that unavailability of high quality seed was a major contributor to low yields in small-scale farms in ASALs. KALRO Katumani has pre-released/released 50 improved varieties which are high yielding and tolerant to drought. During the surveys, it was noted that these varieties were only in some areas where on-farm trials were being conducted and non-existent in many other areas. Further analysis showed that the formal seed sector was not multiplying improved crop varieties adapted to ASALs because these are open pollinated varieties (OPVs) due to low seed sales especially in a season following a good crop season. Other self-pollinated crops are easy to seed recycle making the seed production business less attractive to commercial seed companies. Before 1997/98, the Breeders produced small amounts of seed (2 kgs) from their maintenance plots that was always passed on to the Kenya Seed Company (KSC) for further production.
However, after liberalization of the seed sector in 1996, there are many seed companies that demand breeder seed from KALRO. Therefore, to avail good quality breeder seed to licensed seed companies, KALRO started producing breeder seed. Also, on demand KSU produces basic seed that is not under production by licensed seed companies to consistently avail this seed to farmers in ASALs.