The Dynamics of Seed Flow among Maize Growing Small-Scale Farmers in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico

Abstract

"The paper describes and analyzes the way in which small-scale maize farmers in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca secure access to seed of a diverse set of maize landraces. Six communities were studied, three of them more in depth. Several methodologies were used including in-depth semi-structured interviews with key informants, focus group discussions, ethnographic case studies, and a tracer study - following the flows of seed among different farm households. A range of different types of seed transactions and social relations involved in smallholder seed supply were identified and described. Seed flows are mediated by social rules and relationships. While the most common transaction is the sale of seed, this is not done for profit but out of a sense of moral obligation. We identified several organizing principles of these seed systems: the concept of a 'good farmer,' the lack of transparency in seed, demand for diversity by farmers, a strong belief in genotype by environment interaction among farmers, an interesting experimentation and a belief in their ability to modify 'foreign' seeds to suit their needs. These principles translate into a resilient system, that is partly conservative, but that can innovate as well. The implications of these findings for on farm conservation are explored."

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Keywords

maize, seeds, agriculture

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