Nelly Bassily | July 7, 2008
In researching this story, we found reports that commercial seed distributors do not reach most of the rural parts of Uganda, and that commercial seed is usually too expensive for small-scale farmers. This is one of the reasons why the success of Bakusekamajja Women’s Development Farmers’ Association in the Iganga District of eastern Uganda has generated a great deal of interest and donor support. As this story explains, members of the group were dissatisfied with the yields produced with traditional maize varieties, and found that these varieties were more susceptible to disease. By using and producing improved seeds, they increased family food security and income, and also made improved seeds more accessible in their area.
While many farmers swear by the effectiveness of improved seeds, and many major development organizations promote their use, not everyone agrees with this approach. There are also farmers and development organizations that believe traditional crops, which have adapted to local conditions over decades or centuries, are more consistently reliable than improved varieties.
To read additional profiles of Bakusekamajja Women’s Development Farmers’ Association in reports on development approaches, visit:
-International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) article “Seed production: Can farmers supply themselves and earn a profit?”: http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/ann_report/recent_ar/D_Support/community.htm
-Report to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation “The good seed initiative: Field activities with food insecure farmers in South Asia and East Africa”: http://www.cabi.org/pdf/GSITechnicalReport.pdf
Past FRW stories have looked at the value of both improved and traditional crop varieties. Below are links to a story about Nigerian farmers experimenting with improved millet varieties, and a story about Malian women seed traders who ensure the availability of locally adapted, traditional millet and sorghum varieties:
-“Farmers test best millet varieties for dry conditions” (Issue #6, January 2008)
-“Women traders play crucial role in providing locally adapted seeds” (Issue #9, February 2008)
You may wish to research and report on the experiences of farmers in your area who use improved seed varieties:
-What made the farmers decide to try improved seed varieties? Were they struggling with a pest or disease, or hope to achieve higher yields?
-How do farmers in your area obtain improved seeds? Is it difficult to reach sellers? Are the improved seeds expensive relative to traditional seeds?
-How did they decide which seed variety was best for their farm? Did they carry out field tests, consult local extension officers, etc?
-Do the improved seeds require more or different care or inputs than varieties they used in the past?
-What was the result of using improved varieties, in terms of yield, percentage of loss, return relative to cost of seed, etc?
-Did the farmers experience any unexpected problems with the improved seeds? What did they do to ensure family food security while trying the improved seeds?