The role of social relations in farmer seed systems and reconstruction of agricultural production in a post-disaster situation

The role of social relations in farmer seed systems and reconstruction of agricultural production in a post-disaster situation

Local seed distribution systems in post-disaster Mozambique

This article looks at seed flow in the post-flood situation experienced by Southern Mozambique in the year 2000. It looks at the local processes of seed acquisition based on the traditional values of help and solidarity. Too often seed relief programmes are based on the assumption that farmers themselves are not able to rehabilitate their seeds in times of crisis. However, farmers’ own methods of seed resource rehabilitation should be considered and used as a starting point for improving farmers’ capacities to rehabilitate seed sources in crisis situations.

The floods had a devastating effect on the local seed system in lowland areas because of the suddenness of the disaster. The recurring disasters have resulted in a high turnover and a loss of local crop varieties. The farmers did not have time to evacuate their homes and to save some resources.

The report finds that:

  • the local processes of seed exchange induce seed flow within different agro-ecological zones. Genetic resource limitations, however may affect seed transfers, as some seed varieties adapt to certain agro-ecological conditions
  • a more integrated and effective regional flood alert system could lead to less damage to farmers’ homes and farming resources
  • an investigation of the seed exchange system focusing on the local crop diversity would be important in the assessment of plant genetic resources conservation
  • during the post-flood situation, farmers should be encouraged to seek seeds from areas with the same agro-ecological conditions as theirs when replacing varieties, so that yields are not negatively affected. A regional, national or even international germplasm exchange could be established and used in the future crisis situations
  • farmers’ abilities to reconstruct their seed stocks can be enhanced by establishing ex situ reserve facilities in the highlands beyond the reach of floods, although the issue of in field stored seeds would not be solved, especially that of the lowland varieties such as sweet potatoes and bananas
  • the differentiation of agricultural practices and responsibilities along gender lines may affect the reconstruction of the agricultural systems, which also affects the conservation of genetic resources. Men are responsible for the cultivation of cash crops like maize, sugar cane, rice and bananas, while women have the responsibility and knowledge about food crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and cowpeas
  • an investigation of the seed exchange system focusing on the local crop diversity would be important in the assessment of plant genetic resources conservation. The lack of money and other assets and limited social networks make some farmers extremely vulnerable to flood hazards. Money has increasingly become important in transactions exchanging seed resources, which makes it a key asset in seed security, making the poorest farmers particularly vulnerable. Singleheaded households consisting of old and childless men and women may be very vulnerable, as they cannot provide labour and may lack stable social relationships. Female-headed households usually have limited access to money and are amongst the most vulnerable groups
  • despite the penetration of markets in the local economy, traditional coping strategies based on local processes of seed exchange are still important. Any successful development interventions aimed at increasing the resilience of seed systems should take into account these traditional exchange practices. For example, a better strategy for improving local institutions and seed exchange networks could be aimed at increasing production and multiplication of seeds at the local level and facilitate movement of people between the two areas, rather than distributing seeds from outside to farmers in the lowlands. Development projects should be innovative and poverty-focused, rather than focusing on distribution of germplasm only. It is crucial to reduce the poor’s vulnerability by increasing farmers’ access to money and other valuable assets, which in turn are important for establishing and maintaining social relations.
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