Panel Paper: Social Seed Networks and Climate Change Adaptation in East Africa

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Stetson E (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Wesley Mlsna Zebrowski1, Hannah Katharine Lacasse1, Gloria Otieno2 and Travis W Reynolds1, (1)Colby College, (2)Bioversity International

Climate change poses serious threats to smallholder farmers in East Africa, as increased temperatures and shorter periods of rainfall are generating consistently shorter growing seasons. As these conditions continue to worsen, it becomes increasingly imperative for smallholder farmers to utilize climate change adaptation strategies. East African farmers would benefit from having greater access to diverse seed varieties and information about climate change adaptation, which can be transferred through preexisting farmer information networks.

Our study investigates the routes of information flow through which smallholder exchange seed and information. We then examine how these exchanges among farmer networks can be improved. In order to examine the characteristics of these networks, our study analyzed household-level survey data collected by Bioversity International from sites in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Current seed sources and climate adaptation strategies were determined by creating summary statistics from the survey data. UCINET network analyses were conducted to acquire a more specific understanding of the current social networks among farmers. Seed networks were categorized by country, gender, and crop and then analyzed to determine where the distribution of seed and information can be improved and utilized.

Our findings suggest that farmers have a strong dependence on localized seed systems and have little influence from formal market sources. Although interactions between farmers are present from our UCINET analysis, farmers are most reliant on their own seeds instead of obtaining new seeds each season. Climate change is a clear obstacle that farmers are facing, with nearly all respondents indicating that they experience climate related challenges.

Overall, our results indicate that there are many ways to make improvements in the distribution of seed and information in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. More policy efforts and resources could be directed towards informal and local systems, such as field days and agri-shows, which were listed as the main seed source by many respondents. Additionally, seed and information dissemination may be most effective through localized forms of seed exchange, such as local markets, organizations, and seed fairs. Since many respondents were involved in organizations, giving these organizations information about climate change adaptation to distribute to their members could be effective. Lastly, the high centrality networks in Kenya, specifically among females, offer opportunity to target individuals within networks to distribute resources. Strengthening farmer social seed networks is crucial in providing farmers with seeds and other farming practices necessary to be more resilient to climate change challenges.