The Planning of Emergency Seed Supply for Afghanistan in 2002 and Beyond
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Contents Findings Part I Part II Part III References Abbreviations/Glossary Appendix 1 2 3 4 5 Maps
Part II : A Methodology for Appropriate Emergency Seed Aid Response « previous page | next page »
2.1 - Cultivar Selection Process
2.2 - Recommendations regarding UXO
2.3 - The risks associated with an over-emphasis on modern variety seed
2.4 - Hypothetical Seed Aid Needs in 2002

2.3 - The risks associated with an over-emphasis on modern variety seed

While most farmers in the developing world are more exploratory and innovative than the conventional wisdom holds them to be, farmers are not likely to innovate in the "jaws of an emergency." They will do "what has worked in the past" because those methods are a proven and sure thing. So if, for example, a farmer who grows only traditional varieties of a cereal crop receives modern variety seed during an emergency period, he or she will persist in planting it the same way he or she would plant traditional variety seed. In non-emergency situations in Thailand, individual rice farmers who lacked prior experience with modern varieties sometimes took 4-5 years to adopt even that set of appropriate cropping practices that were not tied to ability to afford purchased inputs. Some of these are listed in Text Box 2.1 below.

Text Box 2.1. Mistakes some farmers of traditional indica rice varieties make when initially growing short-stemmed modern varieties:
  • leave seedlings in seedbed much too long
  • trim off tops of seedlings with knife
  • transplant seedlings 4-8 seedlings per hill rather than recommended 1-3
  • plant in fields with water conditions too deep for short-stemmed varieties
  • use highly inefficient methods of applying chemical fertilizer in terms of rates, timing, and methods of placement
  • inability to control severe insect or bird predation due to crop being "out of sync" with fields of later-maturing rice growing nearby
  • inability to deliver irrigation water at key growth periods due to crop being "out of sync" with fields of later-maturing rice growing nearby

While it is true that introducing a small area of earlier-maturing cereal variety into a landscape where later-maturing varieties are being grown may cause the last two problems listed in Text Box 2.1 above, on balance, incremental adoption of modern cereal varieties over a period of years is the safer approach with respect to the "learning curve" for agronomic practices. Apart from this is the whole other issue of whether the modern variety(s) will prove to be well-adapted to a particular agroecosystem. We suspect that the apparent low rate of adoption of modern wheat reported in the "Appendix L" discussed in Section 1.33-1.34, has more to do with the poor fit with consumer demand and the poor fit between modern varieties and local cropping conditions, than it does with the availability of modern variety seed. As wheat is a self-pollinated crop, farmers should be able to readily pass improved wheat seed from one farm to another after every harvest.


Present: FAO and its independent seed producers (IPs) may be in position to produce more than 2,500 MT seed of rainfed and as much as 10-15,000 MT of irrigated varieties in the current season if necessary financial support is made available.

Recommended Procurement for Irrigated Areas: The state of wheat and other crop seed supplies in the irrigated areas needs to be assessed through a Rapid Rural Appraisal and market availability survey. Since irrigated areas were able to produce crops during the drought, sowing seed for spring and fall 2002 may be able to be procured locally. There may be less of a need to begin multiplying various varieties or import seed. The additional seed could be multiplied based on figures provided by FAO and ICARDA.

Recommended Procurement for Rainfed Areas: It is likely that after three years of drought that the areas most lacking in seed are the rainfed regions. These should be prioritized in the seed procurement program.

Rainfed areas are far more stressed environments than irrigated areas. Hence a procurement strategy that builds stability and resistance into germplasm for these areas must be given priority. A situation such as that mentioned above where government in Iran had for a period of time only one recommended variety for rainfed wheat farmers seems to us fraught with risk.

It is important that the seed provided to the region should reflect what is grown not what is desired from our perspective of what farmers should grow. This means that as much as is possible, germplasm for multiplication and distribution should be sought locally, together with local communities or if unavailable in regions close or agro-ecologically close to where the seed is to be used. Promising or released improved varieties could also be provided to farmers as options but should not be provided exclusively.

Small seed multiplication schemes for rainfed areas should be promoted locally in available irrigated areas if planting date and vernalization requirements are not a problem.

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