Options to support smallholder farmer seed systems

The authors inquire into how smallholder farmers’ practices are affected by seed policies and laws in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This publication comes at a time when power is becoming increasingly compacted on the seed market.

The report Options for national governments to support smallholder farmer seed systems: The cases of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda was published by Hivos and Bioversity International in January 2017.

The authors address the issue of the openness of the seed systems in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. To this end, they looked at three measures: the degree of recognition of the roles and rights of smallholder farmers related to seed management; the degree to which policy and legal regulations facilitate smallholder-based seed management; and the level of support (moral, technical, and financial) such regulations provide for smallholder-based seed management.

Together, these measures can be seen as a reflection of the degree of openness of a seed system. The current level of openness, as an approximate value, can then be compared with that of a com-pletely open seed system.

Farmers want to participate in variety selection and plant breeding

Farmers are interested in taking part in crop/seed improvement activities at all stages of the seed management process from selection to marketing, says the report. But such involvement seems to be lacking in all three countries.

None of the studies mention the patenting of seeds and the implications this holds for smallholder farmers. At the present time, smallholder farmers appear not to be hampered by patenting, but this could change over time, according to the authors.

To create more open seed systems, efforts should not only be aimed at stopping the trend toward stricter regulatory measures, but also at designing and lobbying for the adoption of measures that lead to more recognition of and support for the seed systems of smallholder farmers, the report concludes.

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(Bioversity International/Hivos/ile)