The political ecology of market-oriented seed system development and emergent alternatives

01 January 2013
Paper

What are farmers’ experiences with newly established seed markets for improved varieties in Sahelian West Africa? Market-oriented development approaches frame agricultural systems in dichotomous terms of modern or traditional, efficient or inefficient, and do not account for ongoing learning and adaptation by farmers

This paper critically analyzes farmers’ experiences with newly established seed markets for improved varieties in Sahelian West Africa. Market-oriented development approaches frame agricultural systems in dichotomous terms of modern or traditional, efficient or inefficient, and do not account for ongoing learning and adaptation by farmers. Two years of interviews with farmers who use improved variety seeds are analyzed here using a conceptual framework that combines the type of exchange, the type of seed and the value of the seed as three aspects of seed access decision making. The results show that as farmers gain skills about the benefits and trade-offs of each type of seed system, they make decisions that reflect both new experience and elements of the existing social and natural context. Based on the range of seed access priorities and decisions described in the data, suggestions are made for alternative seed diffusion projects that can meet the needs of specific individuals and communities. The analysis also provides the foundation for future work analyzing if seed system choice differs across groups of individuals.

Kristal Jones is a Ph.D. candidate in Rural Sociology, Pennsylvania State University Ms. Jones has long-standing ties to Sahelian West Africa, and has worked on a variety of research projects focused on the differentiated effects of agricultural research and development projects in that region. She is currently working on an analysis of adaptive seed systems with the introduction of improved varieties of sorghum and pearl millet.

Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.