The African Centre for Biodiversity
PO Box 29170, Melville 2109 South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 486 1156

African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), in partnership with Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA) and Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), is pleased to share a new report, “Farmer managed seed systems in Morogoro and Mvomero, Tanzania: The disregarded wealth of smallholder farmers”. The report is based on field work conducted in Morogoro and Mvomero in 2016. It is a continuation of a research partnership with MVIWATA and SAT started in 2014, which has focused on seed, particularly the farmer-managed seed system, and soil fertility in the context of building agro-ecology as an alternative to the Green Revolution.

The research forms part of a deepening of ACB’s field work to begin mapping farmer seed systems, and to start looking at ways to work with farmers and their organisations to develop alternatives to the Green Revolution push of privately-owned, certified seed as the only recognised option for quality seed. As such, the report is the first in a new series of field work reports that will document the more practically-oriented work of facilitating concrete work on farmer seed systems in several African countries.

The first step in this process is to record in greater detail the crops and varieties farmers are using, and to identify farmer priorities for seed enhancement of their own varieties. The report indicates that farmers in the research site produced 91 different crops, with the vast majority of seed being farmer varieties. Of 12 main crops produced in the sites, there were 57 farmer varieties and 20 certified varieties in use.

Not surprisingly, given the long history of Green Revolution activity, maize was the only crop where certified varieties outnumbered farmer varieties in use. Despite this, farmers still favoured a number of their own varieties for their own consumption. Hybrids and other certified maize varieties tend to be produced mainly for sale. A few certified rice varieties are in use, but these are outnumbered almost 6 to 1 by farmer varieties. Certified rice varieties tend to have better yields but have lost their aroma, which is a major positive characteristic sought for household consumption and in local markets.

The research revealed an alarming loss of variety, including maize, sweet potato, beans and millet, the latter which is falling out of use as it is replaced by maize. This variety loss implies narrowing of options and increased risk, as well as reduction in local nutrition diversity.

Extension services recognise the importance of diversity and the role of farmers in maintaining varieties, but top-down policy orders compel extension and training facilities to promote Green Revolution seed varieties and to actively discourage farmers from using their own varieties or recycling seed. Farmer field schools and demonstration plots are good methods for sharing technologies and production practices, but are currently used exclusively to promote certified seed and synthetic fertiliser use.

There is interest at the agricultural research institutes, amongst extension workers, farmers and their organisations to do further investigations on farmer varieties. This offers cause for hope that alternatives can be developed so that Green Revolution initiatives do not become the exclusive channel for support to farmers, and do not monopolise resources for farmer support.

Download the Report

A summary of the Report will be available in KiSwahili shortly.