Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-zrclq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-14T11:44:20.917Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), P.O. Box 5466 Aleppo Syria
International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), P.O. Box 5466 Aleppo Syria
International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), P.O. Box 5466 Aleppo Syria
Corresponding author.


This study examines the role, structure and effectiveness of informal seed systems in the diffusion of new barley varieties. It uses data collected by tracing farmers who received new barley varieties and other farmers who purchased seeds through farmer-to-farmer seed trade over a period of five years. The principal finding was that informal farmer-to-farmer seed dissemination was an important vehicle for the diffusion of new barley varieties, which were grow on 27% of the barley area of monitored farmers, despite a complete lack of extension support. Almost all seed exchanges were undertaken through purchases at market prices, highlighting the importance of markets in informal seed systems. The second main finding was the high concentration of seed sales among a few key seed suppliers, who established reputations as reliable sources of seed and had contacts with research organizations. The importance of market-based local seed transactions implies that farmers specializing in seed sales can invest in local seed enterprises and provide sustainable services at affordable prices. The results of this study indicate great potential for supporting local seed suppliers in order to ensure a sustainable flow of new crop varieties to smallholder farmers in the dry areas. The study also examined farmers' criteria in evaluating and eventually adopting a new variety. These criteria depend on agro-ecological zones with more complex criteria in drier areas with high rainfall variability. These findings will help plant breeding programmes to target dry and marginal areas, where access to new varieties is low, more effectively.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Adesina, A. A. and Zinnah, M. M. (1993). Technology characteristics, farmers' perceptions and adoption decisions: A Tobit model application in Sierra Leone. Agricultural Economics 9:297311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Almekinders, C. J. M., Louwaars, N. P. and de Bruijn, G. H. (1994). Local seed systems and their importance for an improved seed supply in developing countries. Euphytica 78:207216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bishaw, Z. and Kugbei, S. (1997) Seed supply in WANA region: status and constraints. In Alternative Strategies for Smallholder Seed Supply: Proceedings of an International Conference on Options for Strengthening National and Regional Seed Systems in Africa and West Asia, 10–14 March 1997 Harare, Zimbabwe, 18–33.Google Scholar
Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S. and Baum, M. (2007). Participatory plant breeding in water-limited environments. Experimental Agriculture 43:411435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cromwell, E. (ed.) (1990). Seed diffusion mechanisms in small farmer communities: Lessons from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Agricultural Administration Network. Network Paper 21. Overseas Development Administration, London, UK.Google Scholar
FAO (1999). Seed production and improvement assessment for the Near East and North Africa (seed security for food security) Seed and Plant Genetic Resources Service (AGPS). In Proceedings of the Regional Technical Meeting on Seed Policy and Programs in the Near East and North Africa. Larnaca, Cyprus 27 June–2 July 1999. Scholar
ICARDA (1989). Sustainable Agriculture for Dry Lands – ICARDA's Strategy. Aleppo, Syria: ICARDA.Google Scholar
Jones, R. B., Audi, P. A. and Tripp, R. (2001). The role of informal seed systems in disseminating modern varieties: the example of pigeon-pea from semi-arid area of Kenya. Experimental Agriculture 37:539548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mazid, A. (1994). Factors influencing adoption of new agricultural technology in dry areas of Syria. Ph.D. thesis. University of Nottingham, UK.Google Scholar
Mazid, A., Aw-Hassan, A. and Salahieh, H. (2007). Farmers' performance criteria for new barley varieties and their diffusion through farmer-to-farmer seed distribution. Research Report, ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.Google Scholar
Ndjeunga, J., Anand Kumar, K. and Ntare, B. R. (2000). Comparative analysis of seed systems in Niger and Senegal. Working paper series No. 3. Patancheru 502 324, Andhra Pradesh, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.Google Scholar
Rogers, E. M. (1983). Diffusion of Innovations. 3rd edn. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Sperling, L. and Loevinsohn, M. E. (1993). The dynamic of improved bean varieties among small farmers in Rwanda. Agricultural Systems 41:441453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sperling, L., Scheidegger, U. and Buruchara, R. (1995). Enhancing small farm seed systems: Principles derived from bean research in the great lakes region. Occasional Publications Series, No. 15; CIAT, P.O. Box 6247, Kampala, Uganda.Google Scholar
Sperling, L., Remington, T., Haugen, J. M. and Nagoda, S. (eds). (2004). Addressing seed security in disaster response: linking relief with development. Cali, Colombia: International Centre for Tropical Agriculture.Google Scholar
Witcombe, J. R., Petre, R., Jones, S. and Joshi, A. (1999). Farmer participatory crop improvement. IV. The spread and impact of a rice variety identified by participatory varietal selection. Experimental Agriculture 35:471487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar