Vulnerability in farmer seed systems: Farmer practices for coping with seed insecurity for sorghum in Eastern Ethiopia

Shawn J. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Many interventions try to address farmers’ seed insecurity, though few assess the causes of farmers’ vulnerability or understand their coping strategies. This paper analyzes farmers’ practices for maintaining sorghum seed security in a specific season (1998–99) in Ethiopia, which provides a richer picture of coping strategies than accounts of “general” practices, as it shows how responses reflect events unfolding over time and household-specific situations. High seeding rates ensure against environmental uncertainty, but not everyone has sufficient seed for repeated sowing should stands fail to establish. Off-farm seed fills this gap, though payment is usually required for substantial quantities; only 20% of seed from other farmers came for free in 1998. Differences between seed suppliers and recipients suggest indicators for chronic seed insecurity. The discussion explores implications for supporting farmers’ coping strategies. Helping the poorest farmers access off-farm seed, from other farmers or from merchants, can reduce their vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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