Forage seed supply continues to be an important constraint to improving feed resources for livestock in Ethiopia. Last week the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research organized a National Forage Seed Workshop (May 12-14, 2011). There were a number of interesting presentations: what was clear from many of these is that forage development for livestock has a long history in Ethiopia going back to the 1950’s at Jimma and moving on through activities at Haramaya University, the Swedish-funded Chilalo Agricultural Development Unit (CADU) starting in the late 1960’s, the Fourth Livestock Development Programme in the 1980’s.
Despite these major efforts, the reality on the ground is that the vast majority of smallholder farmers do not use planted forages in contrast to what goes on in India and Kenya for example. There are many reasons for this among which are the difficulties of developing a sustainable system for forage seed supply in Ethiopia.
Many presenters advocated for strengthening of public sector support for forage seed supply.
This struck me as a “business as usual” strategy and I wonder if we need to try a new tack. There is certainly a role for the public sector in things like seed certification, supply of basic seed etc. But as I and my co-authors argue in our presentation I think there is scope for making it easier for private sector entrepreneurs to enter the forage seed sector.
This is currently difficult for a number of reasons including:
– the risky nature of forage seed production
– the long value chain between forage seeds and livestock commodities
– the presence of NGO’s and government agencies that distort the market by paying over the odds for seed and then supplying at low cost or free to farmers.
I also argue that there is much we don’t know about the forage seed sector and that there is room for further research – I outline 6 areas that would benefit from further research. You can see my presentation here:
Please feel free to comment.