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

Dear friends and colleagues

African centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has today published a new report titled “Mapping farmer seed varieties in Manica, Mozambique: Report on initial investigations into agricultural biodiversity”. The report is the product of a research partnership between ACB, the national farmers’ union União Nacional de Camponeses (UNAC) and its provincial union União Provincial de Camponeses de Manica (UCAMA); Kaleidoscopio; and Acção Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU).

Field research was conducted in 4 sites in Manica, Sussundenga and Gondola districts of Manica province and focused on mapping farmer seed varieties. Sixty seven varieties of the 7 most popular crops - maize, millet and beans, followed by sesame, peanut, sorghum and tubers - were grown in the research sites, and farmers also recorded 36 different vegetable/fruit crops.

Maize was the only crop in which certified varieties outnumbered local varieties; however, local maize varieties were most popular in all sites. Key maize traits for farmers are short cycle, grain/cob size, consumption/use qualities, and drought tolerance.

For millet, only 1 out of 9 varieties was certified seed, but there is a definite decline in millet use and varieties available. This is of concern from an agricultural biodiversity and local nutrition diversity point of view.

Farmers are keen to work on in situ improvements of their own varieties, especially maize. District agriculture, economic development and extension services recognise the important role played by farmers, and of farmer varieties. At provincial and local levels government departments and public sector institutions are open to participating in partnerships with farmers and civil society organisations to look in greater detail at farmer seed systems with a view to identifying areas of support and further work.

However, national agricultural and seed policies in Mozambique, as in the rest of the region, promote and support Green Revolution technologies such as hybrid and improved, certified seed and synthetic fertiliser use as the only path to achieving increased productivity. This exclusive approach conflicts with other long-term policy goals such as sustainability, diversity, food and nutrition security, water and soil conservation and farmer participation.

This is especially pertinent in regard to farmer activities in the maintenance and diversity of seed varieties - which play an essential role in local food and nutrition security and the conservation of agricultural biodiversity – are marginalised and even criminalised by Green Revolution seed and plant variety protection laws and policies.

Revision of these laws and policies is required to create space for systematic work on farmer varieties without requiring their varieties to be incorporated into the narrowly defined formal system. Such revisions could include securing farmers’ rights to re use all farm saved seed and free seed exchanges of all seed in their possession; developing flexible quality controls that give farmers (as breeders, producers and users of seed) greater power in shaping standards to suit farmer conditions and a policy emphasis, backed up by funded programmes, on supporting farmer activities in maintaining and developing diverse crops and varieties congruent with local demand.

Download the Mozambique Field Report