Maize seed systems in different agro-ecosystems; what works and what does not work for smallholder farmers
This article (PDF) by The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Food Security journal aims to contribute to better functioning of maize seed sectors serving smallholders, by analysing across different systems. Maize is a food field crop with a highly developed formal seed sector. The study reported here, involving 4 case studies in Malawi, Zambia, the state of Chiapas in Mexico and the state of Bihar in India, indicates that smallholder farmers are increasingly purchasing seed from the formal maize seed system in these different parts of the world. Points of sale vary from seed agent and agro-dealer to the local rural market. Many farmers are growing hybrid varieties, although, in particular, under conditions where higher yields justify seed costs, and with the objective of maize grain sales rather than home consumption, for which traditional varieties continue to be grown. While the findings indicate well-functioning seed value chains in the areas of study, producer surveys and seed value chain analysis also pointed to significant weak links in the formal maize seed systems that need to be improved, such as certification and seed quality control at point of sale, and the availability of financial services to support investments by farmers in quality seed and in seed entrepreneurship. The seed subsidy programs in Malawi and Zambia are likely to have stimulated the use of hybrid seed, but it is questionable whether farmers will continue to purchase hybrid seed if subsidies cease to be available. Although the 4 areas of study are relatively well developed, still a genuine demand for improved open pollinated varieties (IOPVs), local varieties and/or on-farm seed saving was identified. Therefore it should be recognized that even for maize, in addition to the private formal seed value sector based on hybrid varieties, there remains a task for public maize breeding efforts and farmer based maize seed systems for the foreseeable future.
This publication can be found on the website of KIT here.