Publications

Management of rice seed during insurgency : a case study in Sierra Leone

Mokuwa, G.A.

Summary

Keywords: Technography, Oryza glaberrima, Oryza sativa, farmer hybrids, sub-optimal agriculture, farmer adaptive management, plant genetic resources, peace and extreme (wartime) conditions, local seed channels, selection for robustness, Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Abstract

Mokuwa, G. A. (2015) Management of rice seed during insurgency: a case study in Sierra Leone. PhD Thesis, Wageningen University, 267 pp.

In large parts of West Africa small scale farmers rely upon the cultivation of upland rice under low input conditions in a great diversity of micro-environments. It has been suggested that formal research should consider the context within which farmers address their food security issues. But these contexts need further clarification for poor and marginalized farm households facing many challenges, including dislocations associated with political and social unrest, and civil war. The research presented in this thesis builds on earlier findings concerning farmer management of rice genetic resources under farmer low-resource conditions. It starts with a regional focus, drawing on methods from the social and biological sciences, concerning the human, environmental and technical factors shaping the character and composition of rice varieties grown by small-scale farmers in coastal West Africa (seven countries from Senegal to Togo) and then focuses on specific in-depth field studies undertaken in Sierra Leone.

Findings show that farmer rice genetic resources were persistently and enduringly adapted to local agro-ecologies via strong selection processes and local adaptation strategies, and that these adaptive processes were largely unaffected by the temporary contingencies of civil war. It is also shown that even under extreme (war-time) conditions success indicators in farmers’ local seed channels remain robust. Farmers continue to select and adapt their seed types to local contingencies, and war served as yet one more stimulus to further adaptation. This persistent human selective activity continues to make a significant contribution to the food security of poor and marginalized farm households in the region.

The major finding of this thesis is that selection for robustness among varieties of the local staple, rice, helped to protect Sierra Leonean farmers against some of the worst effects of war-induced food insecurity. In this sense, therefore, war may have served to strengthen and prolong farmer preferences for robustness, but it was not the cause of this preference. The marked diversity farmers maintain in their rice varieties is understood to be part of a longer-term risk-spreading strategy that also facilitates successful and often serendipitous variety innovations. In a world facing major climatic changes this local capacity for seed selection and innovation ought to be a valued resource for technological change. The present study provides a starting point for thinking about the improved effectiveness of institutional innovation strategies for farmer participatory innovation activities.