Wheat seed system in Ethiopia: Farmers' varietal perception, seed sources, and seed management

Z. Bishaw, P.C. Struik, A.J.G. van Gastel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge and information on farmers' perception and its influence on adoption of modern wheat varieties, awareness and source of new wheat production technology, wheat seed sources, and on-farm seed-management practices remain sporadic in Ethiopia. This study was conducted to understand the functioning of the wheat seed system in four major wheat-growing areas of Ethiopia. A total of 304 wheat growers were interviewed in Arsi, West Shoa, North Shoa, and East Gojam zones. Most wheat growers were aware of modern wheat varieties, agronomic packages, and agrochemical inputs; >90% of farmers had knowledge of these agricultural technologies, the extension system being the major source of information. There is an extensive adoption of new technologies: the majority of farmers grew modern wheat varieties (76% on recommended list and 10% “obsolete” varieties), and applied fertilizers (97%) and herbicides (64%) to wheat. Although a wide range of modern wheat varieties were adopted, ET 13 (West Shoa, North Shoa, and East Gojam) and Pavon 76 (Arsi) were predominant and each was grown by 20% of the farmers, replacing previously popular varieties, such as Dashen and Enkoy. Farmers identified as many as 26 technological and socioeconomic criteria for adopting and continuously growing a particular wheat variety. However, grain yield, food quality, marketability, grain color, and grain size appeared to be the most important criteria and transcended all zones. Traditional farmer-to-farmer seed exchange played a significant role for lateral diffusion of modern varieties and was a major source of seed for planting wheat crop annually. The informal sector was an initial source of modern wheat varieties for 58% of the farmers, through neighbors or other farmers (36%), relatives (7%), or local trading (15%). Moreover, the majority of farmers sourced their wheat seed informally whereby 79% used retained seed or sourced off-farm from neighbors (9%) and local traders or markets (3%) for planting wheat during the survey year. In contrast, the formal sector was the initial source of wheat varieties for 40% of farmers, but only 8% of the farmers purchased certified seed in the 1997/98 crop season. Farmers' positive perception of seed influenced them to practice different management approaches to maintain the quality of their wheat seed through on-farm selection (67%), cleaning (83%), chemical treatment (4%), separate storage (65%), or informal assessment of seed quality (34%), whereas the responsibility was shared between men and women. The adoption and diffusion of modern bread-wheat varieties and associated technologies appeared to be higher than for other crops, although largely remained informal. It is imperative for the agricultural research to develop farmer-preferred varieties and for the government to strengthen and devise appropriate strategy for seed delivery that is responsive to the needs of the farmers. Within this context, it is important to recognize the role of the formal and informal seed system to create a sustainable seed industry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-327
JournalJournal of New Seeds
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Ethiopia
  • Farmer's perception
  • Seed management
  • Seed source
  • Seed system
  • Triticum spp.
  • Wheat


Dive into the research topics of 'Wheat seed system in Ethiopia: Farmers' varietal perception, seed sources, and seed management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this