Towards improved cassava seed systems in Southeast Asia

We use a wide array of approaches to gain insight into the structure, functioning, and characteristics of the cassava seed system in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong Subregion. We describe the current cassava seed exchange network at regional and local scales, experimentally assess demand for seed with different characteristics, evaluate the evolution of regional seed laws, and investigate the emergence of formal clean seed systems in the formal sector.


Developing production systems and invasive diseases are putting pressure on cassava, a major crop with over 3 million hectares planted annually in Southeast Asia. Despite the tremendous importance of the crop to local smallholders and global value chains alike, no research has been published on the seed systems
supporting the sector. The Greater Mekong Subregion, including Cambodia, Lao
PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, forms a bloc in mainland Southeast Asia
with shared borders and integrated economies. To respond to mounting challenges
in the sector, knowledge of the structure and functioning of cassava seed
systems is urgently needed.

Project description

We investigate the structure and functioning of cassava seed systems from several perspectives, including supply and demand in existing formal and informal systems, the evolving regional legal context, and ongoing attempts to develop sustainable improved systems. This multi-faceted approach includes the first ever study on cassava seed exchange habits in Southeast Asia through a network analysis, the use of experimental auction approaches to determine willingness to pay for improved seed characteristics, a comparative analysis of the development of seed laws in the countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion, and a close look at emerging formal seed production initiatives in three countries.

This research contributed to a major RTB-CGIAR research initiative on Root, tuber, and banana seed systems.


Our research has shown that despite the strong industrial value chain and economic importance of the crop, cassava seed systems remain nearly entirely farmer-led, with informal traders playing important roles in mediating long-distance and cross-border exchanges. Our results have significant implications for
understanding the role of seed systems in adoption of improved varieties,
spreading of plant disease, and potential for the implementation of clean seed
production models.