Informal Seed Traders: The Backbone of Seed Business and African Smallholder Seed Supply

Whether we like it or not, informal markets serve as backbone of African smallholder seed supply.

To be clear, much that is sold in informal markets is used for grain (for consumption, or feed or brewing) but there is a special subset which is sought and managed for planting and which might be termed ‘potential seed’. Both farmers (buyers) and traders (sellers) use a range of strategies to access ‘good potential seed’ from local markets.

This new research focuses on the supply side, that is, on the traders who deal in both grain and seed and whose actions need to be better understood – and leveraged – if we are to improve seed supply on a grand scale (with performing varieties and quality seed).

The research, based on a large dataset of 287 traders in 10 African countries, touches on four themes:

  • The types and hierarchies of trader
  •  The technical ways they manage seed using 11 core practices
  •  The price differential of +50%  of potential(local) seed over grain, and;
  • The pivotal roles which traders play in remote and crisis contexts(e.g.contexts such as the current pandemic)

The article argues that such traders need to engaged, not ignored, in development and relief efforts, It ends with a detailed action framework for leveraging seed trader skills in practical, immediate, and wide-ranging ways

To start the discussion:

  • Have any of you had experience working with traders in seed security initiatives? If so, where, how, white what results?
informal seed trader