In REALISE understanding the seed demands of farmers can be done effectively through analysing farmers’ preferences for varieties and identification of specific traits during on-farm Participatory Variety Selection (PVS). REALISE will use PVS and crowdsourcing as methods to try out new varieties and get a fair idea of what farmers want. PVS and crowdsourcing are fast approaches to deploy many new and improved varieties of different crops.
Although seed is often considered as an input for commodity value chains, the production and distribution of seed itself follows a complex process. From plant genetic resources management through variety development, early generation seed production, seed multiplication, seed distribution to eventual seed use, multiple actors are involved in the actual operations of and service provision to different crop seed value chains. Linkages will be created and strengthened and include those between seed producers, input and service providers to seed producers, and seed users.
Hence, REALISE will work at different level of intensity and focus with all seed sector alternatives: formal, intermediate and informal. The main focus in the formal sector is establishing linkage to address the demand and supply equation. While the crowdsourcing and PVS contribute to identifying the varietal preferences of farmers which inform the formal seed sector supply direction, our engagement in the intermediate sector has a twin goal of promotion of locally preferred seed varieties and empowering of community-based seed production. The informal sector support mainly geared towards quality improvement and supporting farmers to farmers seed exchange.
Formal seed system
The formal seed system in Ethiopia is comprises of institutional operations associated with the development of improved varieties, multiplication, processing, storage and distribution to farmers. Specifically, this includes research institutions, public seed enterprises, large private companies, and small private seed enterprises.
Informal seed system
On the other hand, in the farmers seed system or variety deployment, farmers select their crops and local landraces/varieties, produce their own seeds, and/or locally exchange and purchase seeds. Although the formal seed sector started about six decades ago, it still remains limited to a few major crop varieties developed by agricultural researchers. As a result, the informal sector remains the major supplier of seed of improved and local varieties for many crops grown by small-scale farmers.
Intermediary seed system
Intermediate seed system, which has distinct yet overlapping features with the already recognized formal and informal sectors. The major actors in the intermediary sector are community-based seed production systems in which groups engage in collective seed related activities. For example, this would include community-based seed producers who produce and distribute seed that may not be certified nor fully regulated under existing regulations by the regional bureaus of agriculture, but are producing higher quality seed than produced by the informal sector. These stakeholders offer a unique opportunity for meeting the needs of Ethiopia’s farmers and therefore should not be categorized merely as part of the informal sector.