Seeds are vital for food security and are a fundamental asset for the majority of rural communities in the global South. At the same time, seeds are 'big business' in economic terms. Tension between the social and economic aspects of seed is the reason for many 'seed struggles' around the world. Beyond controversies over ownership and breeding technologies, what really determines if farmers and food systems are 'seed secure'?
Understanding seed use
The diversity of crop species and varieties is the biological basis for our food systems. For this diversity to contribute to food security, it must be accessible to those growing the food – farmers must be seed secure. This project (ACCESS) seeks to understand and strengthen farmers’ access to preferred and well-adapted crop varieties.
Instead of starting from a standpoint of assumptions on what types of seeds are best, ACCESS puts farmers’ livelihoods and preferences at the centre of the analysis. The project will generate research-based knowledge and innovations for seed security as well as humanitarian and agricultural development in three African countries: Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The project team, led by Ola Westengen from NMBU’s Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), will use a combination of large-scale national survey analyses, individual household (micro-level) studies and choice experiments to understand how seed is used and the preferences of farmers regarding seeds.
This information will then be set into context, using analyses of the political economy and legal frameworks that affect farmers regarding their access to seed. Business development and job creation opportunities related to seed system development will also be analysed.
“ACCESS will yield solid empirical knowledge about farmers’ needs, challenges and preferences when it comes to seeds and thereby contribute to better seed-related development policy and practice” says Project Leader Ola Westengen. “I very much look forward to embark on this interdisciplinary research project”.
Seed system innovation
Incorporating the knowledge generated, the team aims to participate in the co-production of seed system innovation, together with strategic national and international actors, with the objective of seed security.
The project will be conducted by an international and multidisciplinary team including researchers from crop science, economics, political science, development studies and law:
- NMBU Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric) at NMBU – Ola Westengen (Project Leader) and Ruth Haug
- NMBU School of Economics and Business – Arild Angelsen and Stein T. Holden
- Wageningen University, Netherlands
- Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania
- International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
- Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway
Together, this team will break new theoretical and empirical ground for seed security.
The project builds on ongoing research projects, and integrates with the EU H2020 project 'Innovations in Technology, Extension and Institutional Approaches towards Sustainable Agri-Food Systems to Promote Food and Nutrition Security in Africa' (InnovAfrica).