Exploring inclusive seed access: Developing and testing indicators

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What does it mean to have or not to have inclusive access to seed? How is this measured? What indicators should we use ? What data needs to be collected?

These are some of the questions that CGIAR gender researchers and experts from the African Seed Access Index (TASAI) aimed to answer as they presented the findings of a pilot study led by work package 6  of CGIAR’s Seed Equal Initiative. Ranjitha Puskur, Lead of the Work Package highlighted the criticality of measuring inclusive access to seed and the challenges associated with it. She highlighted the paucity of data on these parameters and how that constrains our efforts to manage the systems in an adaptive manner. This lack of information poses a severe limitation in understanding and improving these systems. While the formal sector keeps production and distribution records, detailed data on the end users—particularly smallholder farmers and women—remain elusive.

WP6, in partnership with TASAI, embarked on developing indicators and testing them. A pilot study was carried out in Uganda as a part of this effort. Dr. Krsztina Tihanyi, Executive Director of TASAI, Mainza Mugoya,  program coordinator and Dr. Miriam Kyotalimye, country researcher for TASAI in Uganda, presented detailed insights into the challenges and progress made in defining and achieving inclusive access to seeds during the Seed Equal Initiative webinar series titled “Measuring inclusive access to quality seeds – the why, how, and what next.”

Dr. Tihanyi highlighted the importance of expanding our understanding of inclusive access beyond traditional criteria such as gender to include factors like age and disability, citing feedback from stakeholders in Uganda. This is because gender intersects with other social identities such as age, socioeconomic status, and disability, thereby influencing a farmer’s ability to obtain high-quality seeds.  This approach has enabled a more detailed disaggregation of data, which is critical for identifying and addressing productivity gaps across different groups.

The research also identified significant gaps in both formal and informal seed systems. In the informal sector, where many smallholder farmers and women obtain their seeds, data on production, distribution, and access are remarkably scant. “The informal sector continues to dominate as a source of seed availability for smallholder farmers, especially women, but we do not have any data on what is going on in that sector. Where is the seed produced? Where is it flowing? Who’s accessing it?” remarked Dr. Tihanyi.

The pilot project, conducted in  2023, involved extensive stakeholder engagement across three districts in Uganda, with 648 respondents. This initiative not only prioritized household-level data collection but also integrated perspectives from representatives of community seed banks, seed companies, and breeders. This approach provides a comprehensive understanding of the seed system by incorporating diverse perspectives, that brings unique insights and expertise that are crucial for developing holistic solutions.

The findings also revealed insights into seed purchasing behaviour and preferences. While men reported higher usage of improved seeds, women in single-headed households were more likely to buy  these varieties. They also showed a preference for purchasing seeds in larger quantities, which contradicted the general tendency of buying smaller seed packets.

Price differences were also noticed with women in dual-headed households and older people paying higher prices on average. These findings highlight the complex dynamics of seed access and affordability, which could be attributed to several factors, including purchasing strategies and socio-economic status.

The discussions also looked at how households make seed related decisions. The findings revealed  no significant differences in household decision-making patterns concerning seed usage, indicating that most decisions are made jointly, regardless of the seed type. However, membership in agricultural groups emerged as a strong predictor of improved seed usage, especially among women in single-parent households, highlighting the potential of community-based approaches in enhancing seed access.

Lastly, the involvement of women and youth in the seed production sector was also explored. Data from quality declared seed producers revealed that women were more frequently represented among outgrowers. However, management roles within these groups showed less diversity, with fewer women and youth in leadership positions, suggesting areas for future improvement in gender and age inclusivity in agricultural leadership.

These findings underscore the complexity of seed access and utilization patterns among different demographic groups and highlight the need for targeted interventions that consider the specific needs and circumstances of each group.

“As we move forward, we hope that CGIAR and TASAI will continue to refine these indicators and expand our research to further dissect the challenges and opportunities within seed systems and address the diverse needs of farmers. The ultimate goal is to foster a more inclusive and equitable seed system that supports the agricultural productivity and sustainability goals of communities across developing countries of Africa and Asia” concluded Dr. Tihanyi.


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