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Working Paper 36
by Dawit Alemu

At the advent of Ethiopia’s new economic development plan, the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) 2010 - 2015, the Farmer-Based Seed Multiplication (FBSM) programme has increased hopes in the strengthening of the country’s national seed system. Although FBSM engages in various strategies and numerous actors across Ethiopia (Dawit and Spielman 2006), the primary function of FBSM involves the organisation of farmer groups at local levels throughout Ethiopia to produce seed that can either be conditioned (cleaned and bagged) or left in raw form, and provided both for sale to the formal sector or for local exchange. The overall goal of FBSM is contributing to the target of doubling agricultural production through improving access to and use of quality seeds of improved crop varieties along with sustaining the availability of germplasm of local varieties.

The principal advantages of FBSM are identified as follows: (i) improved seed production of locally demanded varieties; (ii) production of crop seeds for which there are less commercial interest; (iii) production and marketing of seed within communities for the purpose of reducing seed cost; and (iv) the possibility of serving as seed demonstration sites to encourage the adoption of alternative crop varieties. Although these advantages are appealing, the current implementation of FBSM demands considerable supervision from extension personnel, suffers from low quality seed recovery rates from participating farmers, places local seed supply under exactly the same climatic risks as local grain production, and its financial sustainability is unproven. This study examines FBSM efforts across Ethiopia and critically analyses the roles of its actors. The narratives, priorities, and agenda approaches of the actors promoting FBSM are documented through a series of case studies, all of which reflect a diversified demand for seed that is based on differing agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts and different sets of actor-networks. The study examines the operation of FBSM initiatives, exploring who is involved and who benefits from the programme. Links to the informal (illegal) private sector and the commercial sector are investigated, including FBSM associations with national and regional seed enterprises. The limits of FBSM initiatives are also documented.