Agricultural history and the history of seeds in sub‐Saharan Africa are an aggregate effect of individual day‐to‐day decisions by farmers.
The role of seeds within an agricultural system can be a valuable indicator of both social and natural time since farmers’ seed selections indicate both natural conditions – moisture, pests, soils – and short‐term, season by season farm decisions about labour, potential yield vs risk and market potential. In the immediate future, international donors and African governments are planning that African farmers will receive their seeds from a global political structure that anticipates, perhaps wishfully, economic and political stability. Those expectations of development specialists are ones that failed at the end of the twentieth century. Will seed selection by African farmers in the twenty‐first century take place in an ideal free market of infinite choice or in real‐world conditions fraught with uncertainty of supply, climate fluctuations and unintended consequences within complex local ecologies?
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 42.4 (2011) The Political Ecology of Cereal Seed Development in Africa: A History of Selection