Thesis subject

Who buys the new (potato) seed?

Initiatives for specialised seed production in developing countries have often failed because the demand of farmers for high quality seed often remained below expectations: farmers prefer to use farm-saved seed or buy from other informal seed sources. As a result, the local, informal seed systems dominate in many crops.

In potato the situation always seemed slightly different. Also in this crop the informal system tends to dominate in developing countries, but often because setting up a formal system with high-quality seed tuber production and diffusion resulted technically challenging for the national research system. The potato seed system in Kenya provides a good example of this situation.

Recently, a commercial farm has picked-up the production of clean, high quality potato seed tubers by using hydroponics for producing the first generation material. They are selling seed tubers at an affordable price, which attracts many local buyers. This brings about change in the use of potato seed and potato production in the surroundings of this farm, which merits to be studied. Who are exactly the local buyers of these seed tubers and how does this influx of high quality seed affect the local potato seed system (i.e. how do the farmers use this seed? Do they re-sell and if so to whom? What other seed sources does it compete with) and production (Is the ware potato production indeed so much higher? Where/how do the farmers sell the ware crop? What do farmers do with the extra income)

We are looking for a student who is interested in this study, and

  • has some basic understanding of potato cultivation
  • and, preferably, of seed systems
  • interest of doing socio-technical research
  • in Kenya – Mt Kenya region

Collaborators: Syngenta Foundation and Kisima Farm