Seed Security: Exploring the Potential for Smallholder Production of Certified Seed Crop at Household Level

N. Munyaka, B. M. Mvumi, U. M. Mazarura


Most smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face food and nutrition security challenges arising from small land size, unavailability of, and poor access to quality seed, inter alia. A survey was conducted in the Zaka district of Masvingo province in Zimbabwe, to investigate the factors that limit smallholder farmers’ ability to produce, store or sell certified seed. The factors considered were the availability of certified seed, the appropriateness of storage facilities for seed storage at household level and stored seed pest management. A standard structured questionnaire was administered, between January and May 2013 to 301 farming households. The results showed that the majority of the farmers (66 %) could not procure locally all the seed they required. The only crop which farmers were assured of local availability as certified seed was maize. Farmers reported that the main reasons for the lack of seed for the other crops were: shortage of foundation seed (39.5 %), lack of knowledge on seed production (34.8 %), seed storage problems (16.2 %) and small land size (8.6 %). The majority of the farmers had their stored seed affected by pests with insects accounting for 82.7 % of the damage and loss. The storage facilities used by farmers were not appropriate for effective pest control. Farmers used bedrooms (57 %), granaries (19 %), metal drums (11.5 %), kitchens (10.4 %) and other places (2.5%) to store seed. Some of the facilities such as bedrooms create pest management challenges. The significant correlation between some seed storage factors indicate these factors should be monitored concurrently when dealing with smallholder farmers as they affect each other. Any seed intervention aimed at increasing availability of quality seed to farmers needs a holistic lens which considers the whole seed value chain from production, storage, pest management up to marketing, for it to have any meaningful impact. Not all other crop seeds were available, with sugar bean seed having the highest shortage. There is potential for business development if the seed crops in short supply are produced locally, especially after further verification of effective demand. Research institutions should explore mechanisms of increasing the uptake of their newer varieties by smallholder farmers through increased early interactions with the farmers. Smallholder farmers can be contracted by seed-houses to produce certified seed or to establish community seed enterprises that supply certified seed in their local communities. This would require adequate capacity building and availing desired foundation seed.

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email:

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