Market‐led options to scale up legume seeds in developing countries: Experiences from the Tropical Legumes Project
This article (PDF) published in Plant Breeding states there are several hurdles to ensure sustainable seed production and consistent flow of improved legume varieties in sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). The unreliable demand, autogamous nature of most of the grain legumes, and slow variety replacement rate by smallholder farmers do not provide strong incentive for private seed companies to invest in legume seed business. The experiences reported here are collated through a 10‐year partnership project, the Tropical Legumes in SSA and SA. It fostered innovative public–private partnerships in joint testing of innovative market‐led seed systems, skills and knowledge enhancement, de‐risking private sector initiatives that introduced in new approaches and previously overlooked enti‐ties in technology delivery. As new public and private seed companies, individual seed entrepreneurs and farmer organizations emerged, the existing ones enhanced their capacities. This resulted in significant rise in production, availability and accessibility of various seed grades of newly improved and farmer demanded legume varieties in the target countries. It could be concluded that resource‐poor farmers are ready to adopt new, improved varieties of legumes. However, only a full package of variety, complementary technologies and innovative seed delivery models will achieve the desired impact for better food and nutrition systems. Furthermore, an efficient seed system for delivering varieties must be linked to the commodity value chain. Also, seed delivery systems may intrinsically be region‐ and crop specific. Therefore, a pluralistic approach will allow to identify the best bets, especially when enabled by policies that recognize seed outside the certification scheme. Also, investments should be made towards creating demand for new varieties and complementary technologies. Moreover, diversification of seed sources by linking formal and informal seed systems is also a fundamental tool to enhancing seed access to resource‐poor farmers especially those in remote areas.