Access to early generation seed: Obstacles for delivery of climate-smart varieties
This article (PDF, chapter 8) published in the book The climate-smart agriculture papers states that changing climates in eastern and southern Africa will require farmers to adjust which crop varieties they grow in order to adapt to changing patterns of weather, pests and diseases. Delivering more suitable, climate-smart crop varieties requires well-functioning seed systems in which actors work in harmony across the supply chain. Although a great deal of previous development funding has been used to breed new varieties and to encourage farmers to adopt them, the availability of early-generation seed (EGS) continues to be limited by bottlenecks in the supply chain. These problems are particularly significant for non-hybrid varieties and less-commercialized food crops developed by public-sector institutions. This study uses two contrasting case studies from Kenya to illustrate the importance of making improved bean seed varieties available to farmers. The experiences from the two cases presented here can be summarized into eight lessons: 1. Public subsidies to promote and market new varieties can encourage commercial interest. 2. Publicly funded agricultural input subsidies can kick-start the market and encourage commercial interest. 3. Access to breeder seed and multiplication rights must be at a cost low enough to attract commercial interest, and annual licensing fees should not be cost-prohibitive. 4. Universities and public breeders must invest in maintaining minimum supplies of breeder seed of promising varieties. 5. Non-exclusive rights are helpful in getting new varieties to market because they allow several small companies to sell the same variety. 6. Mandates for minimum seed production discourage commercial interest, especially for varieties that have not yet been marketed. 7. Public and private sectors ought to share the risks of initial seed multiplication and commercialization; commercial companies should not bear all of that risk. 8. Seed-sector actors should make use of focusing events for public pressure to encourage successful collaboration. To conclude, improved coordination among system actors is necessary to reduce the barriers surrounding EGS provision and production, and thereby strengthen climate-adaptive and adaptable seed systems.