Farmer-led seed systems have the capacity to delivery quality seed
This technical brief by the University of Cape Town aims to examine the quality of farmer-produced seeds that smallholder farmers use for planting in Zimbabwe. Crop farming in smallholder communities is typically configured around farmer-led seed systems, which have been criticised as inefficient and poor quality. Key findings of the brief are: 1) Smallholder farming systems utilise multiple seed sources, which is one of the key drivers of resilience; 2) Good seed production practices lead to low incidences of seed-borne fungal infections. The knowledge and skills exhibited by farmers in this study prove their ability to play a meaningful role in the broad framework of seed production and quality management; 3) Seed-borne fungal infections vary according to seed source channels; 4) A diversity of seed storage facilities provides an inherent and resilient seed supply to farmers, as, should one storage facility fail, alternatives can be utilised. These findings lead to a number of recommendations. First of all, smallholders’ seed management expertise should be integrate with modern seed tehnology techniques. Further, community seed production learning platforms should be developed. The research reported on in this brief reveals that smallholder farmers in eastern Zimbabwe have the capacity to produce sorghum seed that matches formal seed certification standards. This emphasises the need for governments, donors and other relevant stakeholders to recognise and promote the resilience of farmer-led seed systems, in order to meet the ever-evolving needs of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.