The Politics of seed in africa’s green revolution


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By J Thompson & H Odame

Published in: Technology, Business
  • There is no evidence that the African seed industry and emerging seed companies were actually consulted in this analysis. The growing seed industry has well over 80 companies. These can be found at and
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  • Commendable presentation. The mountain to be climbed is one where politics is influenced by big and organised groups who also happen to be from sectors that have higher returns than agriculture. How then are we going to make politicians listen to farmers who are disorganised and whose products fetch low value in the market?
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  • The Politics of seed in africa’s green revolution

    1. 1. The Politics of Seed in Africa’s Green Revolution John Thompson and Hannigton Odame Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE), Kenya 15 November 2011
    2. 2. <ul><li>Future Agricultures Consortium </li></ul><ul><li>Renewed interest in a Green Revolution in Africa </li></ul><ul><li>Political economy of cereal seed systems </li></ul><ul><li>Lessons from country case studies </li></ul><ul><li>Final reflections </li></ul>Focus
    3. 3. Future Agricultures <ul><ul><li>Policy Processes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercialisations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Protection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Climate Change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Land </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pastoralism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Youth & Agri-Food Systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Science, Technology & Innovation </li></ul></ul>Focus on the politics of agricultural policy processes
    4. 4. <ul><li>The new Green Revolution agenda includes a key role for improved seeds and seed systems </li></ul><ul><li>But, since the 1980s…. </li></ul><ul><li>Declining role of state in agriculture </li></ul><ul><li>Collapse of public research/extension systems </li></ul><ul><li>Private sector important, but not sufficient </li></ul><ul><li>Inadequate responses from the international system </li></ul><ul><li>Informal seed systems exist, but are under pressure </li></ul>Towards an African Green Revolution?
    5. 5. Theory of change? <ul><li>‘ Market-led technology adoption’ </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage farmers to grow new varieties of crops that reduce losses and increase stability of yields </li></ul><ul><li>Enhance agricultural productivity through use of synthetic fertilisers and soil management practices </li></ul><ul><li>Build more efficient input markets to deliver better seeds, fertiliser and other inputs to farmers, and the output markets that enable farmers to convert surplus production into profits </li></ul>
    6. 6. But we must ask... <ul><li>Whose interests does this dominant ‘market-led technology adoption’ framing serve? </li></ul><ul><li>What politics are driving this approach in different country contexts? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the alternative framings and innovation pathways? </li></ul><ul><li>And how are these alternatives supported/constrained by different policy processes? </li></ul>
    7. 7. Political economy of cereal seed systems <ul><li>Hypothesis – Contrasting politics and different configurations of actors and interests will fundamentally influence seed system dynamics and how a new Green Revolution agenda plays out in different policy contexts </li></ul>4 2% 2 2% 1 2% 17% <ul><li>Five country study Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe </li></ul>
    8. 8. Source: Sperling et al 2008. JDS
    9. 9. Planting breeding, PBR, priority setting Seeds and livelihoods: social-cultural dimensions Seed aid and relief Economic and institutional policy and regulation Governance of innovation systems Political economy of seed production and distribution Politics and policy processes Politics of national and global agri-food systems
    10. 10. Research questions <ul><li>How do seed policies get created, and by whom? </li></ul><ul><li>How do narratives about what makes a ‘good seed policy’ change over time? </li></ul><ul><li>How are seed ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ framed in national policy debates – and how does this affect implementation? </li></ul><ul><li>Whose voices are taken into account in the seed policy process – and whose are excluded? </li></ul><ul><li>What policy spaces exist for new ideas, actors and networks – and how can these be opened up? </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>Kenya is the ‘poster child’ for the new Green Revolution  key element: a growing network of ‘agro-dealers’ </li></ul><ul><li>But agro-dealers are spread unevenly across the country  concentrated in the higher potential areas </li></ul><ul><li>Changing structure of Kenya’s seed industry is narrowing the choice (hybrid maize, GM maize??)  leading to technological ‘lock in’ </li></ul><ul><li>Agro-dealership is risky business  limited by capital constraints and government interference </li></ul><ul><li>Need to rethink the agro-dealer model  take account for differences in geographic/socio-cultural factors </li></ul><ul><li>Both formal and informal systems should be promoted to assure supply of appropriate seed to Kenya’s farmers </li></ul>Kenya
    12. 12. <ul><li>Maize politics dominates Malawi’s electoral politics </li></ul><ul><li>Interests of multinational seed companies, donors and the state converged around the Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (AISP) </li></ul><ul><li>The AISP has had some success at improving the country’s food security  raised its global profile </li></ul><ul><li>But it has been exploited as a source of political patronage  limiting access, diversity and affordability of seeds for many producers </li></ul><ul><li>There is urgent need to strengthen competitiveness of the local seed industry  improving the regulatory system and revitalising national breeding programmes </li></ul>Malawi
    13. 13. <ul><li>Political turmoil and radical land reform affected Zimbabwe’s seed system  reduced the supply of quality seeds and undermined regulatory control </li></ul><ul><li>Collapse of the seed system was exacerbated by seed relief programmes implemented by the government and aid agencies  bypassed the normal market chain </li></ul><ul><li>In 2010, aid agencies experimented with ‘market-friendly’ input subsidy programmes  created distortions and became objects of political manipulation and elite capture </li></ul><ul><li>To strengthen the re-emerging seed system will require addressing overlapping objectives, poor coordination and weak accountability among key stakeholders </li></ul>Zimbabwe
    14. 14. Key lessons <ul><li>Avoid generalised diagnoses and unilinear technocratic prescriptions to complex seed system problems </li></ul><ul><li>Question the dominant narratives that frame seed policy problems and solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Enhance high-level political debate over priorities, values and interests </li></ul><ul><li>Address the ‘3Ds’  directionality, distribution and diversity in seed innovation processes </li></ul><ul><li>Foster multiple innovation pathways to sustainable seed systems  negotiate trade-offs and identify synergies </li></ul>
    15. 15. Final reflections <ul><li>Underlying implication: politics matter </li></ul><ul><li>By engaging critically with seed policy processes, we can begin to assess how different interests are shaping the politics of seed in Africa’s Green Revolution </li></ul><ul><li>A political economy perspective can help shift the focus of the debate beyond the standard technical/market fix to more plural innovation pathways and food futures </li></ul>
    16. 16.