At the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by the African Centre for Biodiversity at Constitution Hill in December 2017, this session on Participatory Plant Breeding and Smallholder Farmers looked at issues of smallholder farmers & seed breeding/crop improvement and the potential roles of smallholder farmers in these processes were discussed.

Since the beginning of agriculture, many moons before we know it as it is now, farmers have taken care to select and save healthy seeds for the next season. They continue to breed new varieties, adapted to their local social and ecological contexts, ensuring the conservation of agricultural biodiversity.

Scientists began breeding and producing seeds professionally, creating hybrids and genetically modified seeds in specialised laboratories. Seed production has become a huge global business. This system, in many ways, is inappropriate to meeting future seed needs, but despite that, gets the majority of attention and resources.

Smallholder farmer involvement in partnerships with formal sector breeders to improve crops and varieties based on their own priorities is still rare in South and Southern Africa. However, the role of smallholder farmers in maintaining agricultural biodiversity is becoming more recognised. Part of the maintenance and reproduction of agricultural biodiversity is adapting seed to changing ecological conditions. Drought, nutrient limits in the soil and pests and diseases can threaten production if seeds are not adapted.

For the full report on the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, as well as blogs from the event please click on the following links:

Celebrating smallholder farmers and seed diversity in South Africa: Report from the national seed dialogue and celebration

Art, Seed Sovereignty and Activism: Weaving New Stories

Insights into our food system: Why did catering indigenous local food at the National Seed Dialogue go so horribly wrong?…