When it comes to maize variety choices, can farmers have it all?
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United Kingdom, United States of America
Smallholder farmers are often torn between maize seed varieties that have multiple desirable traits. Since they cannot always have it all — there are limits on what traits breeders can integrate in any given variety — they face the dilemma of which seed to pick at the expense of an equally desirable option.
Trait preference trade-offs among maize farmers in western Kenya, published in March 2021, provides evidence of this prioritization and seeks to help breeders, seed companies and other stakeholders set priorities that account for farmers’ needs and their willingness to make preference trade-offs. The researchers evaluated responses from 1,288 male and female farmers in the mid-altitude maize growing areas of western Kenya.
The study argues that farmer-centered seed systems (including seed companies) should be guided by farmers’ priorities and reflect a greater understanding of the tradeoffs these farmers make between traits and varieties.