Tracing the seed: seed diffusion of improved potato varieties through farmers’ networks in Chencha, Ethiopia

Yenenesh Tadesse*, Conny J.M. Almekinders, Rogier P.O. Schulte, Paul C. Struik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


There are many prerequisites for potato production to meet its full potential as a food security crop for subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of these is the introduction of improved varieties. Traditionally, the introduction of new varieties is by government agencies or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). To understand the diffusion of seed tubers (seeds) of new potato varieties in farmer networks, we analysed social factors influencing the sharing of seed of improved potato varieties amongst farmers in Chencha, Ethiopia. We interviewed 166 farmers and analysed 146 seed transactions. We used seed flow mapping to visualize seed sharing amongst farmers. We found that the social networks of farmers are differentiated by wealth, gender and religion, and that this differentiation affects the dispersion of new varieties through the farming communities: Wealthier farmers shared seed tubers most frequently and poor farmers did not share seed at all. Seed sharing was influenced by, but not restricted to, gender and religion categories. Most sharing was with relatives (as gifts) and neighbours (in exchange for labour). There weas no equal access to seed for all households because of (i) the targeting of the better off farmers by the NGO (ii) differences in frequency of sharing and (iii) terms and motivation of the transactions. Our results show that wealthy farmers most effectively multiply and share the seed of new varieties with medium wealthy and poor farmers. This study shows that for the introduction of new technologies into a community, its dynamics of social differentiation need to be understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-496
JournalExperimental Agriculture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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