Seed systems smallholder farmers use

Shawn McGuire, Louise Sperling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Seed can be an important entry point for promoting productivity, nutrition and resilience among smallholder farmers. While investments have primarily focused on strengthening the formal sector, this article documents the degree to which the informal sector remains the core for seed acquisition, especially in Africa. Conclusions drawn from a uniquely comprehensive data set, 9660 observations across six countries and covering 40 crops, show that farmers access 90.2 % of their seed from informal systems with 50.9 % of that deriving from local markets. Further, 55 % of seed is paid for by cash, indicating that smallholders are already making important investments in this arena. Targeted interventions are proposed for rendering formal and informal seed sector more smallholder-responsive and for scaling up positive impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-195
JournalFood Security
Issue number1
Early online date18 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Informal and formal seed sectors
  • Agricultural investment
  • Markets
  • Smallholder
  • Delivery
  • Access to seed

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