Case Studies on Early Generation Seed Systems: A Project Overview
Seeking to understand commonalities among thriving formal seed systems, a BMGF and USAID partnership project on early generation seed systems reviewed ten seed systems across the world. This post explores the project’s background and purpose. It is part of a series, so stay tuned for more seed systems content!
Public research institutions have developed and released improved varieties that exhibit better yield and tolerance to biotic (i.e., diseases and pests) and abiotic (i.e., drought) stresses than traditional farmer-saved seed. Despite the advantages of these improved varieties, they have not been broadly adopted in East, West, Central and Southern Africa.
In 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) jointly funded studies in the African Green Revolution Alliance (AGRA) countries. These studies indicated that the lack of early generation seed (EGS) production is a primary bottleneck that constrains agricultural development and that partnerships between the public and private sector would be needed to resolve it.
Partnerships were recommended because neither the public sector nor the private sector can do it alone. Agricultural research institutions are hesitant or unable to move downstream into EGS production because they lack the mandate, people, business systems, and/or resources to meet demand unilaterally. Private seed producers are reluctant to move upstream into EGS production because of the limited profit potential in producing small volumes of high-quality seed.
So partnerships based on shared value are essential to making seed systems work – but what do these partnerships look like in practice? What are the roles and responsibilities of public and private sector actors? What do the economics of production look like? Can EGS production be financially accretive or not?
The partnership project between USAID and BMGF set out to answer these key questions by examining the operational, financial, and organization dynamics of ten EGS systems that ranged from banana in Brazil, to pulses in Canada, to rice in Bangladesh.
The result is a diverse set of case studies on EGS production and distribution systems that describe the form and function each system takes to serve commercial seed producer demand.
Figure 2: Map of EGS case studies
The early generation seed system case studies
In total, the project team profiled ten EGS systems – five studies on roots, tubers, and bananas; two on pulses; and three on rice. The case studies produced stand-alone presentations, which are available for review and download at the following links:
Roots, tubers, and bananas
Each case study is structured as six chapters, mapping to the framework shown in Figure 3 below. The first chapter provides context around the market dynamics of the commodity that the seed system serves. It is followed by a review in chapter two of the key stakeholders that enable production, before shifting in chapters three through five to focus on how new varieties are developed and deployed to seed producers in a financially sustainable way. The final chapter summarizes the policies, institutional linkages, and norms that enable the EGS system.