© FAO/ Alessandra Benedetti

Background and Rationale


This project builds upon the work on how to govern markets for agricultural development, but with an added dimension of including crop genetic diversity as an important indicator of market performance. Crop genetic diversity in the rural marketplace is an indicator of the range of choices available to farmers in using markets as a seed source. Markets are not only a vehicle for exchanging seeds – a physical good – but also for the exchange of the genetic content of the seeds, expressed as varieties. The project aims at assessing the structure, conduct and performance of rural agricultural markets where seed is being sold, relate these features to farmers likelihood of accessing seed in markets and the impacts this has on farm level diversity and welfare.

One main innovation in the study is to measure crop genetic diversity in the market chain and consider it as an important determinant of how well a market works. Another innovation is considering the impact of market exchanges on both private and public goods: e.g. the impact of increased access to crop genetic resources on:

1) the farm household’s crop productivity, resilience and consumption patterns and
2) on-farm crop biodiversity conservation.

Both of these factors are important components of a sustainable pattern of utilization.

The research programme includes an analysis of the crop genetic diversity found in selected rural markets, and the factors that influence the access farmers willing to buy seeds will have to these resources. We look at three main aspects of crop genetic resource accessibility in rural markets:

1) the actual physical availability of crop genetic diversity,
2) the accessibility to information about available genetic resources and
3) the costs of obtaining the genetic resources – including transaction costs.

Empirical information was gathered on the relationships that exist between agricultural markets, their governance and the nature of the exchanges that take place within them. As a final step in the methodology, on-farm utilization patterns are linked to different dimensions of household welfare and crop diversity. This will help to better understand both the private and social impacts of agricultural seed market performance as synthesized by the following graph.

Five country case studies have been implemented under the project. Each case study is built around one or two target crops selected for their importance to food security and local diversity. Each case study focuses on a policy or regulation that is expected to have an impact on the accessibility of seeds and crop genetic resources in the market.