a1 Department of Crop and Horticultural Sciences, Mekelle University, PO Box 231, Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia
a2 Post Graduate Programme on Plant Genetic Resources, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Rodovia Admar Gonzaga 1346, Itacorobi, Florianopolis, SC, Brazil
a3 Department of Plant and Environment, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, Ås 1432, Norway
For maintaining food security and livelihood, farmers in marginal areas of production environments make use of high levels of crop genetic diversity. The exchange of seed and varieties among villagers, and also the relative isolation of local varieties in their production environments, contributes to the continued existence of locally adapted genotypes. In Tigray, one of the major barley-growing regions of Ethiopia, local varieties and local seed systems are dominant. The annual barley seed requirement is met with seed produced, saved and exchanged by farmers. In order to understand the flows of seed and varieties within and between villages, a study was conducted using a survey to gather information from 130 respondents in seven villages. Seed network analysis was used as an analytical tool to assess flows of seed and varieties and to identify farmers who play different roles in the seed system. Within the major seed exchange network, nodal or connector farmers linked seed subnetworks. The flow within villages was much more dominant than beyond. Rare varieties appeared to be sourced from farms that maintain a broad variety portfolio. Varieties seemed to disseminate informally across farms, in their target environments, following participatory varietal selection. The methodology of social seed network analysis proved to be a powerful tool for monitoring seed and variety flows. Furthermore, it identified farmers as critical partners in the conservation and on-farm management of plant genetic resources, recognized the role of plant breeders in participatory varietal selection and that of seed experts, engaged in strengthening local seed supply and in disseminating quality seed of superior varieties.
(Received February 14 2011)
(Accepted May 22 2011)
(Online publication September 30 2011)