N2Africa legume varieties spread through communities through farmer-to-farmer diffusion

Display start
Display end
Newsletter #
Newsletter item #
News homepage item #

At the end of N2Africa phase I, we looked at the ‘early impact’ of the project. Next to a number of surveys among farmers, agro-dealers, partners, we also carried out several case studies. One of these case studies involved an effort to explore to what extent the legume varieties disseminated by N2Africa through demonstration trials had spread beyond the farmers directly involved in the project. It is generally assumed that when varieties perform well, the seed will spread from farmer to farmer, through the community and, through links with relatives, friends and others, beyond the community. Little is known, however, about how seed (and related information on e.g. rhizobia or fertilizer) is actually shared. In a case study in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, we therefore explored the diffusion of seed and information, through questions such as: How many farmers share their seeds with other farmers? What volumes are involved? What are the mechanisms through which such transactions occur? What is the impact of gender and other social boundaries? Do these boundaries represent any barriers to seed diffusion?

The study showed that 90% of the farmers that received a N2Africa package with 1 to 5 kg of seed had shared this seed two to three years later, on average with four other farmers. The farmers who received this seed (2nd, 3rd or 4th generation farmers) from the original farmers (1st generation farmers) shared their seed less frequently (Table 1). 80% of all the seed shares were of 1-2 kg of seed given as a gift; only 5% of the seed sharing involved a cash transaction. More than half of the seed sharings were with family members and around a third were between friends. Men shared at least as often as women and both men and women shared most with persons of their own sex, although men tended to share more frequently with persons of the opposite sex. Information about rhizobium as an associated input was shared by more than one third of farmers; in most cases this information was shared by the farmers who had participated in the demonstration trials.

The study also explored the use of soyabean seed introduced by N2Africa at sites at around 5 and 10-15 km distance from the original demonstration trial site. It showed that most farmers in these sites were familiar with soyabean, although not all of them grew it. Half of the farmers had heard of rhizobium, but it is not clear if they understood how it worked and, in most cases, it was not readily available for purchase at the time of study.

Although the exploratory character of the study limits the validity of the data and the conclusions that can be drawn, the data provides a base for extrapolation. Prior to this study no figures concerning spontaneous seed diffusion were available. Data from this study indicate that in addition to the 250,000 farmers who participated directly in the N2Africa demonstration trials, another 1,400,000 farmers may have received seed of a new legume crop or variety through diffusion by the original N2Africa farmers.

The full report can be downloaded here: Tracing seed diffusion from introduced legume seeds through N2Africa demonstration trials and seed-input packages.

Conny Almekinders and Esther Ronner, Wageningen University, The Netherlands