Community-based seed production in Nepal
|Concepts and approaches of community-based seed production (CBSP) for a sustainable seed supply system in Nepal|
New community-based systems fill a big need for seed. Now, farmers can get seed of the varieties they prefer. Community networks find suitable new varieties, involve farmers in selection, and produce seed commercially. They are market-oriented, and cost-effective because they involve all stakeholders' farmer groups, government and non-government research and development organisations, seed traders and entrepreneurs. Community-based seed organisations dealing with rice, wheat, maize, kidney bean, chickpea, mungbean, lentil, field pea and oilseed rape already operate in Nepal, and are spreading to India and Bangladesh. They boost local seed markets, open possibilities for people to start seed-trading businesses, and offer farmers a 'basket' of their favourite crop varieties from which to choose.
Project Ref: PSP36:
Plant Sciences Research Programme and LI-BIRD
Relevant Research Projects:
R6748, R7542, R8071, R8221 and Programme Development
The PSP has initiated, developed and formalised a community-based seed production (CBSP) approach for a sustainable seed supply system for poor farmers. It is an approach of producing and distributing seeds with the participatory involvement of farmers’ groups. In this approach, seed producer farmer associations are formed to multiply the seed of farmer-preferred varieties using a cost-effective approach having several unique futures. It is market-oriented with an unusual characteristic of placing greater emphasis on developing skills in marketing than in production. It takes account of the entire seed innovation system from initial identification of new varieties through participatory varietal selection (PVS) through to commercial seed production. It involves all stakeholders, and develops strong linkages between the private sector and the community-based groups. This builds sustainable partnerships for the CBSP groups and governmental and non-governmental research and development organisations, seed traders and entrepreneurs. This has:
When produced: The CBSP approach of seed supply began with the successful outcome of participatory crop improvement (PCI) projects that began in 1997 in Nepal. These projects quickly identified new, farmer-preferred varieties and an immediate challenge was to provide seeds of those varieties on a wider scale. Since 2000, the rapid formation and institutional strengthening of farmers’ groups to produce and market seed has been widely tested in important crops such as rice, wheat, maize, and kidney bean. Dry season crops e.g. chickpea, mungbean, lentil, field pea, oilseed rape etc were included in the CBSP programme after the initiation of the rice-fallow rabi cropping (RRC) project in selected districts of Nepal terai.
Problem addressed: Over 80% of the total population of Nepal derive their food security, livelihood and income from agriculture (CBS, 2005). Seed is vital for agricultural development; however, farmers have limited access to quality seeds of improved crop varieties. The formal sector meets < 5% of the total seed demanded of major food crops (Baniya et al., 2000). The National Seed company (NSC), a parastatal organisation, produced and marketed over 3000 tonnes of seed of rice, wheat, maize, lentil, jute, vegetables, and other crops in 2005, of which rice, wheat and maize had the major share (Table 1). The current supply of about 600 tonnes of rice seed through the NSC is just enough to replace 0.55% of the total rice seed demand annually in the country (Table 1). The supply situation of crops other than rice, such as wheat and maize is more alarming. In this context, farmer-to-farmer seed exchange and local seed markets meet most of the seed requirements. There has been a declining government involvement in the seed supply system but there is no viable commercial seed supply mechanism is in place to fill the gap. The situation is even worse in remote areas with the result that resource-poor and disadvantaged communities suffer most.
Table 1. Demand and supply of quality seed from government managed seed supply system i.e. through the National Seed Company (NSC) in 2005
Lessons from previously implemented seed projects in Nepal and findings elsewhere (e.g., Cromwell, 1997; Sperling and Ashby, 1997; Tripp, 1997, 2001; Douglas, 1984), suggest that only locally-based organisations can provide a solution in meeting the demand for quality seeds.
The priority crops in CBSP in Nepal
All the above crops are very important from the point of view of food and livelihood security, income generation and also providing raw materials to most of the agro-based industries in Nepal. In addition, other minor crops are also included as per the local farmers’ needs. The process of CBSP is equally applicable to all crops in all agricultural systems in all geographical regions. It is easiest for self-pollinated crops with high multiplication rates and where seeds can be sold without a need for longer storage.
CBSP is highly compatible with participatory varietal selection (PVS) and client-oriented breeding (COB) as these approaches are based on the identification and promotion of new varieties. These outputs can be clustered with activities related to seed quality, health, improved post-harvest processing and improved seed storage and, demand and supply of agricultural information and any other seed-based technologies, seed priming, enrichment of seeds with micronutrients, processing and improved packaging.
Often farmers do not use the quality seeds of improved crop varieties so the efficiency of CBSP systems can be enhanced through marketing networking. In Nepal, the FM radio network is emerging with a wide coverage throughout the terai and most part of the hills. Information networking through such channels in other parts of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa would be very helpful in letting farmers know about what is available for particular crop variety. These can also be clustered with outputs that help in capacity building of farmers groups, particularly on seed quality management and marketing. Some of the CBSP groups were, for example, based on existing groups concerned with activities such as livestock or irrigation.
The cultivation of post-rainy season crops in land that was previously fallow also requires group action, and in some terai districts farmers groups, facilitated by FORWARD, have already initiated CBSP on post-rainy season crops. This could be strengthened and expanded to new areas in Nepal and elsewhere.
The value of these outputs can be added by clustering with non-RNRRS outputs, e.g., CBSP promoted by CIMMYT-NARC collaboration on maize (funded by SDC) in Nepal, small grant projects funded by the National Agricultural Research and Development Fund (NARDF), Nepal, and research findings on solarisation to produce healthier seedlings of rice by Cornell University in Bangladesh and Nepal.
Because the output involves seed, groups, marketing, information, participation, extension and institutional change it can be linked to many RNRRS outputs:
How the outputs were validated:
The benefits of seed of improved varieties have been validated over many crops, countries and regions in PSP research and this is documented in other clusters. Here, we concentrate on the validation of the effectiveness and sustainability of the CBSP groups rather than the impact of the seed produced by the groups. This effectiveness has been validated by a participatory evaluation process of the CBSP group development (Gauchan, 2006, Devkota et al, 2006) and from the records kept by the groups on the seed produced by crop, variety and year and by the financial accounts. Important indicators of sustainability of this approach is that many of these groups are running the business with little external financial support, and are independently handling the planning, production and marketing of seeds. Outside support has been limited to technical backstopping. It was found that the groups were very particular about the quality of the seeds they produced and inspected the production plots and rejected those that were considered unsatisfactory.
The effectiveness of the groups from the viewpoint of their customers was validated by focus group discussions (FGDs) with farmers groups in several districts. It was reported that access to quality seeds of new varieties had improved, the price was affordable and the delivery was in time and reliable.
Additional evidence of the long-term commitment of the groups is that they have federated for quality management and seed marketing. In Chitwan the groups established a District Seed Co-ordination Committee (DSCC) to facilitate the supply of source seed, and to have effective quality control of the seed by joint monitoring and supervision.
Internal validation was done by the members of the seed producers groups (Annex 1). Several District Agricultural Development offices (DADOs) in the terai and the hills of Nepal, several of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) Stations across country. Similarly Agrovets, NGOs, e.g. LI-BIRD, FORWARD, Community Development and Research Centre (CDRC), SUPPORT Foundation, INGOs CARE and PLAN, CGIAR centres-CIMMYT and projects-Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP), Agricultural Perspective Plan Support Programme (APPSP), Crop diversification project (CDP) have promoted and validated this approach in many districts of Nepal involving thousands of seed producer farmers.
The effectiveness of this approach has also been reported (Koirala et al., 2004; Rajbhandari, 2004) and also validated in most of the districts mentioned above by 2004 and 2005 through the monitoring visit of multi-stakeholders. The effectiveness of these approaches was evidenced by their uptake by several partners both governmental and non-governmental, other projects and CGIAR centres (Joshi, 1999 and Joshi et al., 2006).
Where the Outputs were Validated:
Realising the ever increasing demand of quality seed and declining supply from the government run organizations, a community-based seed production and marketing approach was initiated by LI-BIRD and CAZS-NR at Chitwan effectively from 2000. In 2001, this approach was scaled up in five more terai districts - Jhapa, Rautahat, Dang, Kailali and Kanchanpur - with the help of the DADO offices of these districts as the groups need to be formally registered with them to be eligible for technical backstopping and other support. By 2002, this approach was further scaled to four more terai districts - Kapilvastu, Sirha, Saptari and Jhapa - by FORWARD under the Rice-fallow rabi cropping project (R8221) (Fig.1, Annex 1).
The seeds are produced in the rainfed and irrigated rice production systems in the humid and semi-arid tropics.
Fig. 1. Functional CBSP groups in the terai districts of Nepal (2000-2006). The numbers in the parenthesis indicate the number of groups.
Who are the Users?
The group members are the primary users of this output. Each member participates in the decision making on planning, production and marketing and shares in the benefits (Annex 2). This allows groups to be more cohesive and committed to maximising profits. Farming communities across the country are the secondary users of this output. They are getting increased productivity through the use of quality seeds of new crop varieties of their choice.
Currently, this approach is being adopted by several NGO partners in parts of several districts and in many instances this is implemented as a part of special projects. Some elements of the approach are also adopted by government organisations particularly by DADOs of 21 terai and 14 hilly districts in their District Seed Self-Sufficiency Programme (DISSPRO). But such groups are still driven by DADOs who market the seeds the groups produce.
Uptake of this approach, from PSP research, is also increasing in other countries, e.g. India and Bangladesh. The Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are promoting CBSP in their project areas. In Bangladesh PROVA has initiated CBSP on rice and chickpea.
Where the outputs have been used:
These outputs are being used in several agro-ecosystems both upland and low land, irrigated and non-irrigated including areas under cold and moisture stress conditions. In the areas that remain fallow after rice harvest options are available to grow chickpea, lentils, pigeonpea, field pea and mungbean and seeds of them are being produced and marketed. These outputs are also being used in the high barind tract (HBT) of Bangladesh by PROVA in collaboration with Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) with support from CAZS-NR. In the rainfed semi-arid tropics of western and eastern India GVT and CRS are making use of these outputs with support from CAZS-NR.
Scale of Current Use:
Over 30 groups and cooperatives are producing and marketing a considerable amount of certified, improved and truthfully labelled seeds of rice, wheat, maize, grain legume and oilseed crops (Annex 1). The first significant seed production was in 2001 and by 2005, the quantity of seed of various crops produced and marketed was over 1000 t.
The seed production of the seed groups is much higher than that of the National Seed Company (NSC) (Table 1). Moreover, the NSC does not have a good reputation for the quality of its seed. On average, a seed producer group established only 3-4 years ago is producing and marketing 150 t (Table 3) seed of various crops (Annex 1).
Table 3. Amount of seed of various crops produced by community-based seed producers groups, 2002-2005
After four years, these groups are supplying seeds to over 30 terai and mid-hill districts of Nepal and Chitwan has become a major source of seeds of several crop varieties. The CBSP has contributed to the dissemination of new crop varieties; many of which have been identified or bred using participatory approaches, PVS or COB. The amount of seed produced and sold was >1000 t (Table 2) annually by just seven groups with a cumulative net profit of over $10,000.
15. In your experience what programmes, platforms, policy, institutional structures exist that have assisted with the promotion and/or adoption of the output(s) proposed here and in terms of capacity strengthening what do you see as the key factors of success?
The approach was also scaled up by non-RNRRS projects, e.g., the SDC-funded Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP) who promoted CBSP in parts of several hill districts (Fig. 2) as an integral activity of the project.
Fig. 2. CBSP approach validated and promoted by the Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP) in various hill districts of Nepal. However, all the groups get some kind of support from the project and their number fluctuates between years.
The Government of Nepal has initiated a policy to encourage and strengthen farmer’s seed producers groups and piloted a District-level Seed Self-Sufficiency Program (DISSPRO) particularly for increasing the access of quality seed of released, pipeline and farmer’s preferred popular varieties at a reasonable price in the villages. DISSPRO is being run through the Department of Agriculture (DoA) through their DADOs network. Such groups are strengthened through the provision of revolving funds and grants to a limited number of selected seed producers groups each year in a district. However, these groups do not have the same characteristics of those helped by the PSP and its network of partners. The DISSPRO groups are not based on the demands of farmers so the groups tend to lack ownership, are subsidised more and, most importantly, they lack the basic skills in marketing as DISSPRO places no emphasis on this. Until now more than 125 seed producer’s groups were formed through DISSPRO but many have stopped their seed production activities for many reasons. Ultimately most of the groups dissolved as they were not financially viable.
Key factors in the success of the CBSP in the PSP programme was linking groups with DOA/DADO, NARC commodity research systems and NGOs. The most important factor was establishing market linkages with seed entrepreneurs and seed traders. Adequate but not overdue attention was paid to technical capacity strengthening. Moreover, the groups are encouraged to mechanise threshing, grading and packaging to minimise costs and to improve the quality and presentation of their seeds. There may be a strong case for the capacity building of many of the groups formed under DISSPRO through training and interaction with PSP-promoted groups to make them more functional and sustainable.
Promotion of Outputs:
The locations of the CBSP groups in Nepal are shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2.
In India, this approach is being adopted for the production of upland rice. This is centred mainly on Orissa but there are some groups in Jharkhand. CBSP in western India have concentrated on maize. Activities have been in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (MP) but now most of the activity is in MP with the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project (MPRLP).
In Bangladesh, the groups with PROVA are centred on several sub-districts of the High Barind Tract and the approach is being used for the production of rice and chickpea seeds.
Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:
A major barrier isa lack of awareness of the real constraints to establishing viable seed producergroups. Several efforts in the past by many projects over many years and the vast majority have ended in failure. Poudel et al., 2003, as part of the PSP research, reviewed the reasons. These were an overemphasis of the technical aspects of seed production since the people involved in the projects were largely seed specialists and extensionists and an underemphasis on financial and marketing aspects. Essentially, the concept of seed production as a business rather than a development activity was not grasped. No attention was paid to the strengthening of groups by helping to establish good cooperative arrangements among their members.
Lack of demand for seed may be an issue in the case of new varieties because of an inadequate supply of information on their advantages. Promoting CBSP can provide added incentives to provide information to farmers about the traits and advantages of new varieties and result in more rapid dissemination of the farmer-preferred varieties.
New groups tend to be limited by capital to invest in seed and infrastructure. Start-up funds in the form of soft loans can greatly facilitate the process of forming and strengthening CBSP groups. Most of the CBSP groups face initial difficulties in financing the purchasing of seed and a soft loan or revolving funds are required for six to eight months.
Marketing is a vital issue for the seed business to succeed. More efforts are needed to impart marketing skills to many farmers and groups.
How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:
The most important factor to remove the barriers is the changes to the mindset that seed production is a technical, rather than a business enterprise, and that there is no need to try and produce groups that are sustainable even without outside help. Training of staff of government line agencies that have been given the resources to establish seed producer groups is required, and, to a lesser extent, NGO staff. Policy makers need to be brought into a dialogue on this issue in which they are rarely involved. There are substantial funds that can be tapped for seed production activities but norms need to be established on how to help seed producer groups at the start-up phase.
Seed production needs to be included as a topic in the course curricula of the Agriculture University.
Government policy should be favourable to such groups to produce, sell and distribute seed of all categories of varieties (released, near release, farmers’ varieties).
Using the framework of J. E. Douglas (1984) for the lessons learnt:
Profitability of the enterprise is the most important factor that motivates others to participate. The lessons on group building and financial profitability have to be learnt by GOs, NGO and extension workers who have been involved in non-sustainable approaches in the past. Establishing better linkages between seed entrepreneurs and the groups is one of the most important factors in getting this research into use. Besides this, there should be policy influence on the policy makers who hold the traditional view of the need for strong regulations for seed when, in fact, deregulation is needed to improve farmers’ access to seed. Government monopolies in the seed business are undesirable and regulations need to be relaxed to allow the private sector and civil society to be involved.
Poverty Impact Studies:
We have not commissioned any separate studies on the impact of CBSP but the following reports have some information on the impact.
Devkota K. P., Tripathi M. P., Gyawali S., Sunwar S., Poudel D., Shrestha P. K., Joshi K. D. and Witcombe J. R. (2005). Community-Based Seed Production: An Initiative for a Sustainable Seed System in Nepal. Paper presented in good practices workshop, LI-BIRD, Pokhara (in press).
Devkota K. P., Gyawali S., Tripathi, M. P., Joshi K. D., Gurung M., Poudel H., Chaudhary, M., Shrestha P. K. and Witcombe J. R. (2004). Community-Based Seed Production System in Rice: A Case Study of Unnat Seed Producers Group, Patihani, Chitwan. Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) Summer Crop Workshop June 28-30 Kathmandu, Nepal.
Devkota, K.P., Tripathi M., Chaudhary M., Gurung M., Poudel H. and Gyawali S. (2006). Final Technical Report of R8071 -Participatory Plant Breeding in High Potential Production Systems-Validating PPB products, testing different breeding methods and scaling up of new rice varieties. Available at www.dfid-psp.org
How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):
The CBSP system provides benefits to the seed-producer farmers and their groups and also provides benefits to the grower who use quality improved seed. The poor thus benefit in two main ways: directly those who are involved in the CBSP and indirectly those that purchase seed produced by the groups either to sell on (entrepreneurs) or to grow (farmers).
Direct benefits. These groups have a clear organizational structure and the members have defined roles and responsibilities. We assume this has helped in the development of human capital and the empowerment of the members of the groups. It adds to the capability of the community to produce seed of improved varieties.
The groups have also generated additional income for their members (Table 4). There are over 370 farmers in the eight groups (Table 4). Given that businesses rarely make much money in the early years, the magnitude of this impact could increase substantially.
Indirect benefits: It is estimated that over ten thousand farmers are using improved seed produced and marketed by seven CBSP groups alone. The seed produced and sold is sufficient to sow several thousands of hectares. Given that the new rice varieties (PSP02 and PSP13) can give very high yield advantages the seed from the CBSP outputs contribute to the improved livelihoods of those that grow them; they include the resource poor, socially excluded, marginal and vulnerable farming communities.
Table 4. Income and expenditure of some of the more well-established community-based seed producers groups (group evaluation), 2001-2004
Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:
Direct and indirect benefits:
Adverse Environmental Impacts:
Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:
Baniya, B.K., A. Subedi, R.B. Rana, C.L. Paudel, S.P. Khatiwada, D. K . Rijal, & B.R. Sthapit, (2000). Informal rice seed supply system and storage systems in mid-hills of Nepal. In: A scientific basis of in situ conservation of agrobiodiversity on: farm: Nepal’s contribution to the global project (B Sthapit, M Upadhaya and A Subedi editors) pp 79-91.
CBS (2005). Statistical Year Book of Nepal. Government of Nepal. Central Bureau of Statistics, Kathmandu.
Cromwell, E. (1997). Local Seed System Activities: Opportunities and challenges for regulatory frameworks. In: R. Tripp (Ed). New Seed and Old Laws. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, UK.
Devkota, K.P., Tripathi M., Chaudhary M., Gurung M., Poudel H., & Gyawali S. (2006). Final Technical Report of R8071-Participatory Plant Breeding in High Potential Production Systems-Validating PPB products, testing different breeding methods and scaling up of new rice varieties. Available at www.dfid-psp.org
Douglas. J. E. (Ed) (1984). Successful seed programs: A planning and management guide. West View Press Boulder, Colorado, USA.
Evenson, R.E & Gollin, D. (2003): Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000. Science 300: 758 – 762.
Gauchan, D. (2006). Assessment of the Outcomes of Rice-fallow Rainfed Rabi Cropping (RRC) Project in Nepal Terai. A report of the RRC outcome assessment in Kapilvastu, Saptari and Jhapa districts, Nepal. Bangor, UK: CAZS-Natural Resources, University of Wales.
Joshi K D, Biggs S, Gauchan D, Devkota K P, Devkota C K, Shrestha P K & Sthapit B. R. (2006). The evolution and spread of socially responsible technical and institutional changes in a rice innovation system in Nepal Discussion Paper 8 Wales, Bangor: CAZS-Natural Resources, University of Wales. Available at www.dfid-psp.org.
Joshi, K. D. (1999). Small scale seed production in Nepal. A Research Report prepared for Overseas Development Institute, Portland House, Stag Place London, UK
Koirala, K.B., Gurung, D.B., Pokhrel, B.B., Acharya, G.P., Prasai, H.K., Poudel, R. & Bhattarai, M. (2004). Community based seed production: Experience from Western and Mid-Western Hills of Nepal. Proc. 24th National Summer Crops Research Workshop on Maize Research and Production in Nepal. (Sherchan D. P. et al eds.). National Maize Research Programme, NARC, Rampur, Nepal
Poudel, D., Chaudhary, P., Chowin, K.R. & Ghimire, H. (2003). Seed production and marketing through farmers’ groups: Case studies. CAZS Discussion Paper 4. CAZS, University of Wales, UK and LI-BIRD, Pokhara, Nepal. Available on www.dfid-psp.org
Rajbhandari, N.P. (2004). Developing a strategy for a sustainable maize seed supply system in Nepal: Challenges, Potential and Options. Proceedings of 24th National Summer Crops Research Workshop on Maize Research and Production in Nepal. (Sherchan DP et al eds.). National Maize Research Programme, NARC, Rampur, Nepal.
Sperling, L. & Ashby, J. A. (1997). Participatory Plant Breeding: emerging models and future development. In: R. Tripp (ed.). New Seed and Old Laws. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, UK.
Tripp, R. (1997). Regulation and regulatory reforms. In: R. Tripp (ed.). New Seed and Old Laws. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, UK.
Tripp, R. (2001). Seed provision and agricultural development, The Institute of Rural Change, Overseas Development Institute, London.
Seed producers groups and cooperatives
Relevant Research Projects,
with links to the