Seed vouchers and fairs in Zimbabwe - CRS (Special Supplement 3)
In 2001/2, Zimbabwe experienced one of the worst droughts in ten years. Other factors which contributed to create a food crisis included economic decline, characterised by high inflation and unemployment, reliance on a single staple crop (maize) and detrimental government policies. A high prevalence of HIV/AIDS also contributed to people's vulnerability.
The agricultural sector in Zimbabwe contributes 15% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 70% of the population. Factors limiting crop production include poor access to agricultural inputs, shortage of labour and lack of access to markets with competitive commodity prices. Seed systems in Zimbabwe include the formal, informal and the farmer. The formal system is the second largest in Africa and comprises maize, wheat, hybrid sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, cotton and vegetable seeds. The informal system focuses on minor crops such as groundnuts, cowpeas, sorghum and pearl millet. For the farmer system, most smallholder farms in remote areas do not have access to seed and depend on their own home saved seeds. The drought had reduced the supply of this seed.
The CRS response was based on the assumption that seed was available locally but farmers had limited access due to lack of capital. The programme objective was to enhance food and seed security for 9000 households for the 2002/03 cropping season.
CRS established a partnership with a local NGO, CTDT (Community Technology Development Trust), who had agriculture programme experience. A training workshop was carried out, and agricultural recovery committees elected by the community. A seed needs assessment was also carried out, which focused on the quantity of seed of specific crops and the varieties required, in relation to the estimated availability for each. Assessments also served as opportunities to inform and recruit potential vendors. Meetings were held with local communities and commercial seed companies to recruit and educate seed vendors. The committee assisted in identifying vendors.
The general process of the seed fair consisted of event supervision, seller and beneficiary registration, seed quality checking, voucher distribution, voucher exchange, voucher redemption, seller and beneficiary exit interviews.
The programme implemented 19 fairs in six districts, for 22,500 beneficiaries and involving 1347 sellers. A total of 324 MT of seeds were exchanged comprising 31 crop types. Nearly half (48%) of the beneficiaries and 72% of the sellers were women. In the higher productivity agro-ecological zone, 23-25 crops were sold, and 9-15 crops in the drier regions. Most sales were made for maize, which ranged from 23% to 83%. The range of crop varieties on sale was highest for maize with 18 varieties, followed by sorghum (10), groundnuts (9), beans (10) and pearl millet (5). There was evidence of short term positive impact on area planted and crop production.
Only 50-63% of beneficiaries were happy with the site. The fairs were held in one location in each ward, which can be a very large geographical area. This meant that beneficiaries had to walk long distances.
Between 60-90% of beneficiaries considered the quantity of seed available sufficient. There was lower satisfaction in areas where more maize was available but fewer other crops. Most received the seed on time. Very few of the beneficiaries (14%) felt the prices set were negotiable however, even though the price set was to be used as a maximum by sellers. Overall, 14-24% of beneficiaries concluded that the prices were fixed and very expensive. Only 41-67% of beneficiaries felt the vouchers had enabled them to buy all the types and quantities of crops that were available.
Beneficiaries judged the quality of the seed to be very good, and the majority expressed satisfaction with the range and varieties of crops available. Fairs improved the knowledge of local seed systems for both CRS, its partners and beneficiaries. Overall, 94% of beneficiaries recommended further seed assistance through seed fairs. The seed sellers were also satisfied.
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 103, March 2006