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Genetic Diversity and On-farm Seed system in Ethiopia


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  • 1. Genetic Diversity and On-farm Seed system in Ethiopia Tesema Tanto Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research (IBCR) P.O.Box 30726, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia [email_address]
  • 2. Introduction
    • Farmers’ varieties (landraces) are well adapted to the different specific physical and biological environments.
    • There is empirical evidence that they are tolerant to certain biotic and abiotic stresses.
    • They are sources of different desirable quality traits for modern scientific research as well.
  • 3. Introduction…
    • In Ethiopia over 90% of the food crops grown and sold are FVs.
    • Most farmers producing FVs sell their produce to consumers and traders in the local market.
    • Disposal of products in local market normally includes substantial farmer-to-farmer exchanges.
    • Commercial marketing organizations and grain traders at all market levels do not make a distinction between FVs and improved varieties.
    • There is, however, a general feeling by farmers that FVs have a higher quality nutritional value than improved varieties
  • 4. Introduction…
    • Seed markets offer a strong incentive for in situ conservation of FVs.
    • Sale of FV crops for seed purposes fetch premium prices ranging between 25-100% depending on the season and the locality.
    • Community gene banks (CGBs) play an important role in the FV seed supply system and in stabilizing the FV seed market, as well as in keeping farmers attracted to the in situ on-farm conservation program
  • 5. Introduction…
    • A distinct market for FVs at the national (as opposed to the local) level does not exist or has not developed.
    • Producing FVs as organic products is said to be relatively easy since most smallholders growing landraces (>90%) do not use fertilizers and other inorganic inputs on their annual FV crops such as sorghum or durum wheat.
    • But it would be difficult to organize smallholders to produce uniform quality products that pass the strict Developed country dominated certification system.
  • 6. Introduction…
    • There are indications that smallholder organic coffee production could be the most feasible in the short-term where small-scale farmers could also be organized into cooperatives.
    • The Oromia Organic Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OOCGCU) has made a head way in this regard.
  • 7. Introduction…
    • There is evidence that considerable potential for organically growing a variety of other crops including oilseeds and pulses exists in Ethiopia.
    • Whereas Ethiopia’s comparative and competitive advantage lies in it being the origin of several crops being grown in virtually organic form.
    • it is already clear that it is difficult for smallholders and even commercial farmers to identify such markets on their own.
    • Even after such markets have been identified, a major barrier to the entry into the international market is the elaborate system and high cost of organic product certification, which is controlled by a few Developed countries firms and needs to be done at regular intervals
  • 8. Introduction…
    • There are potential markets for FVs but these need to be identified, defined and developed before they become the subject of a monitoring effort or system
    • – e.g. the durum wheat and malt barley markets.
    • There are Ethiopian organic products which have entered international markets
    • – e.g. coffee and sesame – but in a very small way in quantity and value terms at national level, which prima facie does not seem to justify the setting up of monitoring systems.
  • 9. Market-driven Farmer varieties seed
    • Market-driven means that the FV crop seed is produced either for household consumption or for exchange with other farmers, or for sale at a specific market.
    • There are three categories identified by IBCR
    • One category is FVs in their wild types, undisturbed in their natural habitat.
    • The second category is grown by choice and enhanced by IBCR.
    • Choosing elite materials from a certain area (the material could be enhanced or not) and with some form of networking in the same locality to make it cultivated under farmers own management.
  • 10. Market-driven Farmer varieties…
    • The third category are FVs that are preferred by farmers both for home consumption and marketing purposes and do not need any price support or compensation e.g. Teff and durum wheat
    • Even for those with market existence, their use has to be supported by the non-market incentive mechanism including the provision of Community Gene Bank Services and the use of revolving seed fund to procure and distribute seeds when farmers are facing seed shortage.
  • 11. Market-driven Farmer varieties…
    • Crop genetic resource conservation has given rise to the debate of whether genetic resources are public (social) or private goods.
    • The discussion with IBCR staff and other experts leads to the supposition that crop genetic resources are both public and private goods depending on the use, existence and optional value they acquire.
    • Their use value can be determined by the individual farmer’s willingness to pay for FVs of his/her choice.
    • The farmers’ can determine the existence value and researcher’s knowledge of past and future genetic potential of FVs in view of food security, poverty reduction and national security issues.
    • The optional value is determined by the expected value a farmer can give when he/she is both willing and able to produce using HYV or FV in view of his/her present living situation.
  • 12. Market-driven Farmer varieties…
    • The option value of FVs in situ on-farm conservation has to be seen in terms of their cost of maintenance and the actual and expected benefits compared to high yielding improved varieties (HYVs).
    • Intergenerational transfer of FVs by a production-based market oriented approach needs to be studied in view of current and future economic gains and losses to individual farmers versus the society at large.
    • For those farmer varieties seed that need support requires national priority list of crop species in terms of their degree of endangered ness (vulnerability to genetic erosion) by agro-ecology and regional rate of economic growth that is related to the use of improved agricultural technologies and the emergence of large size commercial farms.
  • 13. Market-driven Farmer varieties…
    • To reintroduce FVs seed to their place of origin or wider production area needs to be carefully studied in view of initial causes of disappearances, the environment at the time of reintroduction and the sustainable use of reintroduced materials in a production based in situ conservation system.
    • This indicates that the in situ and ex situ conservation activities have to be complemented.
    • The FVs whose use value has deteriorated, or became environmentally unfit can be kept ex situ .
    • However, if there is an interest to keep them with their natural habitat to show their natural variability, and genetic potential to survive, under stressed environment, then the farmers who will be willing to maintain them under in situ on-farm conservation program need some incentives.
  • 14. Crop Genetic diversity and the need for conservation
    • Crop evolution involves two fundamental processes: the creation of genetic diversity and selection (natural and artificial or conscious).
    • These evolutionary processes must continue in order for agriculture to remain viable.
    • Even though agricultural science, notably plant breeding has altered and enhanced these process it did not change its fundamental nature.
    • Ever since man started domesticating plant species, crop improvement relied on the available genetic variation on which both natural and artificial selections act.
  • 15. Crop Genetic diversity and the need for conservation…
    • It is the rediscovery of Mendelian genetic laws in the 1900s that gave plant breeding a scientific basis and led to the release of genetically uniform improved varieties.
    • At the time only a few scientists realized that farmer varieties (FVs) were being lost from agricultural fields and with them genes of immense value to subsequent generations.
    • This became clearer when the spectacular synergistic effects of high yielding varieties (HYVs), particularly of wheat and rice, and cheaper nitrogen sources led to the so-called "Green Revolution".
    • The action taken to curb this irreversible loss of crop genetic resources was to conserve landraces in gene banks-- ex situ conservation.
  • 16. Farming Systems Trend and Its Implication on in situ on-farm Conservation of FVs seed
    • Discussions were held with elders (men and women) to assess the changes that have occurred over the last three decades and the implication of these changes on FVs seed conservation
    • Rainfall amount and distribution have reduced.
    • The 1984/85 drought was occurred in the region and a number of localized droughts were occurred since then.
    • Consequently, the productions of some of the preferred FVs of sorghum have declined.
    • Farmers have introduced some drought tolerant types of sorghum FVs and their production expanded.
    • Thus, the composition of FVs seed grown over the last two to three decades decreased.
  • 17. Farming Systems Trend and Its Implication on in situ on-farm Conservation of FVs seed…
    • Over the past three decades the human population has tremendously increased and this has resulted in putting great pressure on grazing land and on deforestation for crop production.
    • Moreover, farm sizes have been reduced and this entails the need for greater productivity from a given unit of land to meet food and cash need of the household.
    • A substantial proportion of conservator and non-conservator farmers at Harbu, Ejere and Decha realized that FVs area coverage has been declining.
    • Farmers stressed that some FVs have either been lost or are on the verge of extinction.
  • 18. Seed Source, Selection and Maintenance
    • Farmers have developed systems of ensuring a sustained supply of seeds.
    • The basic seed sources for FVs are from own seeds saved from previous harvest
    • Seeds are also obtained through exchange, gift from relatives or friends and through purchase from markets.
    • Recently crop conservation associations (CCAs) actively engaged in providing seeds from CGB on credit to members.
    • NGOs operating in the area also provide seeds to farmers. For example in Kalu Woreda , CONCERN Ethiopia, a NGO, procures and distributes FV seeds to farmers.
  • 19. Revolving seed system
    • Farmers were given seed on loan basis for conserving/multiplying materials that were likely to disappear or be abandoned but might have potential value and for multiplying such seed for distribution to local farmers in the region.
    • More than 3883 farmers shared seeds developed in this way, and multiplied for further distribution of these materials for the following planting season.
    • Many of the crop plants that are locally adapted were jointly selected with farmers did relatively well, all with no external in puts, like commercial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. and were expanding into close vicinities of the project areas of the above regions where frequent crop failures have occurred due to prevailing droughts, thus filling major gaps in the availability of locally adapted seed for planting under such stressful conditions.
  • 20. Revolving seed system…
  • 21. Revolving seed system… Figure 1.Farmers receiving seed loans from the CCA at Eastern Shewa site
  • 22. Figure 2. Farmer returning seed loans back to the community gene bank in east shewa
  • 23. Revolving seed system…
    • Seed lenders charge exorbitant interest rates and exploit farmers who lost their seeds due to various factors and unable to maintain their seeds.
    • The prices of planting seeds become very expensive at planting time.
    • For example at places like Harbu, South Wello, the price of sorghum seed is more than two fold the price of grain for consumption and the ratio between grain and seed prices could be as high as 1:10 during planting time.
    • Loan supply of planting seed from the community gene banks protected the farmers at the conservation sites from seed lenders and other supplier’s exploitation.
  • 24. Women participation in local seed system
    • Women farmers have rich indigenous knowledge about FVs.
    • They use their own criteria in selecting and classifying FVs and comparing them with improved varieties (HYVs).
    • Some of the important traits/criteria that women farmers consider in valuing FVs include yield potential, baking quality, taste, grain color, market value, feed quality, and other qualitative characteristics.
  • 25. Women participation in local seed system… F ig. 3 Women participate in cleaning seed before planting
  • 26. Local seed system and on-farm crop conservation
    • The maintenance of species and genetic diversity in fields is an effective strategy that Ethiopian farmers have long adapted to sustain a stable system of conservation for low input agriculture.
    • In situ (on-farm) conservation of Farmers’ varieties/landraces seed on peasant farms provides therefore, a valuable option for maintaining local seed system.
    • More importantly, it helps to sustain the evolutionary systems that are responsible for generation of genetic variability
  • 27. Local seed system and on-farm crop conservation…
    • This is especially significant in regions of the country subject to drought and other stresses, because it is under such environmental extremes that variations useful for stress-resistance breeding are generated.
    • In the case of diseases or pests, this allows continuing host-parasite co-evolution.
    • In addition, under these conditions, access to a wide range of local seed system provides the only reliable source of planting material.
    • In situ conservation enhances the continued diversity-based agriculture as opposed to monoculture by ensuring intra-specific and inter-specific diversity of crops.
  • 28. Local seed system and on-farm crop conservation…
    • The farmers are more aware of the potential use of diversity because it provides among others
    • Ecologically the on-farm conservation of the traditional seed system with its associated traditional knowledge is sound practice since it allows the evolutionary process of the crop conserved to take place in association with biotic and abiotic stresses that a crop plant can encounter.
    • The farming communities have a continued source of genetic material produced by a dynamic evolutionary system
  • 29. Local seed system and on-farm crop conservation…
    • Farmers in the target regions and elsewhere have a more secure source of locally adapted traditional seeds that otherwise might be eliminated by genetic erosion.
    • National and international breeders can develop new crop varieties that have a greater range of genetic material from these diverse and potentially useful basic crops seed.
    • National and international crop scientists have a unique living laboratory to understand the biology and ecology of crop genetic resources and the seed system.
  • 30. Social impact of local seed supply system
    • Seed is the basic input in agricultural production system.
    • Lack of locally adapted seed particularly in drought-prone and food insecure communities is crucial especially as production is only subsistence.
    • The seed supply system developed by the Crop Conservation Associations has provided the opportunity for farmers to take seed loan from the community gene bank with minimum interest rate of (10-25 %) depending on local conditions every year.
    • Some 4000 farmers have an access to get seed by loan every year for planting purposes.
  • 31. Social impact of local seed supply system…
    • Lack of locally adapted planting seed has been alleviated because of the current system.
    • This, in addition to being constant source of locally adapted seed supply, has been able to generate resources that help them improve their livelihoods including to all their family members.
    • These situations assisted the farmers from mass flow and displacement to other areas where they could move for better life .
  • 32. Farmers Opinions on their varieties seed:
    • the following observed advantages of landraces (farmer's varieties) seeds over the improved varieties: -
      • Resistance to stress condition and pest out breaks;
      • No loan and no credit for purchase of fertilizer and different inorganic inputs while planting landraces;
      • Free 'produce of seeds' without absorption-effect of fertilizer-nutrients and pesticides;
      • Encouragement to organic farming and indigenous farming practices;
      • Better productivity advantages under low input production condition in marginal areas;
      • High productivity advantages were obvious while using crop rotation and other organic farming techniques;
      • Better local price advantage especially for planting seed etc.
  • 33. Economic advantages of farmer varieties seed
    • The ability of landraces to survive under stresses is promoted by their inherent broad genetic base.
    • This is often not the case with the uniform, new or improved cultivars that, despite their high yield potential, are less stable and not as reliable as sources of seed under the adverse growing conditions generally, present in many of the drought-prone regions of Ethiopia
  • 34. Economic advantages of farmer varieties seed…
    • In addition, under such extreme environments, locally adapted seeds provide suitable base materials for National crop improvement programs.
    • There is, therefore, an outstanding need to maintain landraces growing under these conditions in their dynamic state, and the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research best achieved this through on-farm or community-based conservation programs as experienced.
  • 35. Economic advantages of farmer varieties seed…
    • To support a sustained, more elaborate landrace enhancement activity some 175 durum wheat farmers’ varieties were evaluated/characterized to supply the seed system in Ejere.
    • Similarly, in South Wello Region, 66 sorghum farmers’ varieties and other pulse crops that are locally adapted types with potential for high yield and other desirable characteristics were identified and distributed to the local farmers.
  • 36. Conclusions
    • Seed loan developed has strengthened the more sustainable revolving seed system schemes, which have to a large extent provided incentives to farmers.
    • This system provides farmers with a fall back mechanism and has enabled them to be more seed secure.
    • The growing demand for farmer varieties seed in the local markets, their multiple benefits including low inputs, better adaptation to marginal conditions and superior culinary, nutritional and straw qualities have all contributed positively to be sustainable in the project areas
  • 37. Conclusions…
    • The participation of local communities and awareness created makes the seed system initiative more sustainable in social context.
    • The local farmers are keen in producing farmer varieties because of their merits including performance in marginal areas with little or no requirement for chemical fertilizer inputs.
    • The seed system is based on a revolving seed supply system with an inbuilt interest generation mechanism on seed loans.
    • Moreover, market and non-market incentives are being developed for better pricing device for farmer varieties grown in chemical free environment.
    • Looking the right market niches in terms of organic product is one of the ways forward.
  • 38. Recommendations
    • More agro-ecological zones of the country have to be covered for effective local seed supply system especially in drought prone areas
    • The research and enhancement aspects of farmer varieties seeds have to be strengthened to effectively utilize the existing farmer varieties in crop improvement programs and in local seed supply systems.
    • Some policy issues that disregard the use of farmer varieties in the extension packages has to be revised because of its importance in less food secure and drought prone areas.
    • Community gene banks with its seed loan schemes secure the local seed supply system sustainable. Therefore, this effort has to be expanded in more agro ecological regions of the country .
  • 39. Recommendations…
    • The farmer varieties across the country have to be identified and enhanced in order to promote these local varieties to add value in terms of socio-economic, nutritional, and ecological factors.
    • The availability of locally adapted planting seed is a security to farmers, to this effect the identified and enhanced farmer varieties of crops in each region has to be purchased in each locality and made available both as planting seed and grain especially in drought prone and food insecure regions of the country.
  • 40. Recommendations…
    • The farmer varieties seed across the country have to be identified and enhanced in order to promote these local varieties to add value in terms of socio-economic, nutritional, and ecological factors.
    • The availability of locally adapted planting seed is a security to farmers, to this effect the identified and enhanced farmer varieties of crops in each region has to be purchased in each locality and made available both as planting seed and grain especially in drought prone and food insecure regions of the country.
    • Thank you so much!!
  • 41.