Implications of Seed Policies for on-Farm Agro-Biodiversity and Food Security in Ethiopia and Uganda
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
To provide an in-depth look at the current status and future trajectory of smallholder seed systems in East Africa we systematically coded over 200 provisions in 22 national seed policy frameworks in Ethiopia (n=12) and Uganda (n=10). We assessed each provision’s intended impact on the availability and accessibility of three different seed types: (i) improved seed (i.e., introduced genetic diversity); quality-controlled seed (i.e., varietally pure certified seed, comprised of both improved and local seed), and (iii) genetically diverse local seed (i.e., indigenous genetic diversity) in both the formal and informal seed systems in each country. We then further coded the degree to which seed policies contribute to or undermine other stated national policy goals (e.g., genetic diversity conservation and use), as well as various qualitative aspects of food crop genetic diversity (e.g., taste, color, and cooking characteristics) which are important traits for farmers.
Findings suggest the overwhelming majority of policy provisions in both Ethiopia and Uganda target the expansion and fortification of formal seed systems providing improved and quality-certified seed. Both countries’ policies contain relatively few (and often negative) policy provisions targeting informal seed systems – in spite of these systems being the current source of most rural seed. Ethiopia and Uganda’s seed policies do differ in important ways, with Ethiopian policies more heavily emphasizing incentives for conservation, along with rules protecting smallholder farmers’ legal rights to ownership and compensation for on-farm genetic diversity that may later prove to be of commercial value. Neither country’s policies substantively emphasize non-production-related traits such as taste or cooking characteristics – with potentially important implications for cultural and gender values.
Ultimately, as a largely unintended consequence of recent shifts to modern farming practices, much of East Africa’s crop genetic diversity is being lost. The results of this study highlight the role of public policies in shaping how crop genetic diversity is utilized – or not – to the benefit of smallholder farm communities.