Saving or purchasing seeds

Marcelina Chauja sells quinoa seeds at the central market in Huancayo, Peru. It is generally assumed that smallholder farmers rely on seeds saved from year to year. Recent research indicates that this assumption may need to be adjusted. In sub-Saharan Africa a majority of smallholder farmers purchase their seeds, mainly from local markets or fellow farmers. A relatively small proportion of transactions, 2.4% overall, involve ‘certified seed’ produced by private sector companies and sold through farm supply stores or agrodealers.

Reaching the village level

David Oboth and Dickson Ogot look for a good place to set up the tuk-tuk mobile seed shop in Gulu, Uganda. Victoria Seeds improves accessibility by using mobile seed shops to reach markets in remote villages.

Variety testing

Tomato seedlings are planted for variety testing in Butajira, Ethiopia. Fair Planet tests existing varieties that are made available by indexed seed companies. The trials are conducted using agronomic practices that are accessible and affordable to local smallholder farmers. In various regions, the selected varieties yielded more than five times the average national yield.

Local breeding

Local scientists Shakuntala and Pushpalata examine tomato crops in the greenhouse at East-West Seed’s R&D center in Bangalore, India. Through plant breeding, varieties can be developed that are suitable for smallholder farmers: better adapted to low-input conditions or climate-change challenges such as drought. Breeding for extended shelf life can also ensure better storability and transportability of crops.

Adoption strategies

Ethiopian farmer Gifty Jemal Hussein explains to President Obama how her life has improved since the use of quality seeds helped her to triple her yields. She participated in the Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP), a collaboration between DuPont Pioneer, the Ethiopian government and USAID.

Farmer education

Agriculture students learn various agricultural skills such as sowing turnip seeds at the Bayer Ramanaidu Vignana Jyothi School of Agriculture. The school was established in 2007 in the Medak district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The school offers two six-month training courses to teenagers, and seeks to encourage them to choose a future in agriculture in their home region rather than moving to the city.

Seed insurance

Joseph Mukopi uses his cell phone to check the weather in Kikwameti village, Kenya. The Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise (ACRE), majority owned by the Syngenta Foundation, facilitates access to insurance products that protect smallholder farmers against risks such as drought and excess rain. Automated weather stations monitor daily rainfall and any payouts are made directly to the farmer’s mobile wallet. In 2014, an estimated 230,000 farmers were insured in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda through products designed by ACRE.

Support for local crops

Carmen Valle in her quinoa field in the Viscaya Valley, Peru. Quinoa is a local crop, high in protein and tolerant of dry soil. Indigenous peoples of the Andes have traditionally protected and preserved quinoa as a food for present and future generations. As part of a collaboration with the German government, KWS supports the quinoa work of the public gene bank in Peru through trainings.

Extension services

East-West Seed trains Malian farmers in advanced agricultural practices such as irrigation and mulching. Extension services and agronomic training can help farmers to realize the full potential of quality seeds of improved varieties.

Seed production

A farmer checks if the maize is ready for harvesting at a NASECO seed production site in Nalweyo, Uganda. Smallholder farmers are not only end-users of seeds but can also be partners of seed companies in their seed value chain, for instance in seed production. NASECO reports that more than 90% of its seed production is carried out by smallholder farmers and farmer cooperatives.

Pioneer and AGRI Gauteng support South African farmers to become professional seed growers. John Tshlito leases 60ha of land. Not a smallholder by African standards, but not a large farmer by South African standards either. He leases the land from the government. When he reaches the level of professional farmer, he has an option to buy the land.