Living in Parallel Worlds? Bridging Formal and Informal Seed Systems (maize briefing 6)

  • Published 01/03/10

In semi-arid areas of Eastern Kenya many small-scale farmers plant local maize seed, saved from the previous year, or obtained from within the community, rather than purchase commercial seed from their local agro-dealers and stockists.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, farmers are reluctant to invest scarce resources in inputs in the context of unpredictable climate and frequent drought. But, secondly, these farmers often have more confidence in the quality and reliability of these seeds and, in particular, their likely performance in local agro-ecological conditions.

Why do farmers have such confidence in local seeds? They are produced within local seed systems that rely on knowledge and skills passed down through the generations. Furthermore, local varieties are often more reliable than commercial varieties in these harsh environments, particularly in light of problems with ‘fake’ and mislabelled seeds in the formal system.

This is the sixth in a series of seven briefings on our Maize project.