Usefulness of seed systems for reviving smallholder agriculture: a South African perspective

  • S.I. Hlatshwayo
  • A.T. Modi
  • S. Hlahla
  • M. Ngidi
  • T. Mabhaudhi
Keywords: Informal, Seeds, Quality, Security, Smallholder, Production, Challenges, Policies


South Africa is considered a food-secure nation; however, food insecurity is still a major challenge for many poor rural households that rely on cash incomes and government grants for survival. Furthermore, these grants are not always adequate to meet households’ basic needs, and fail to provide them with the food required for food and nutrition security. Some of these households rely on agriculture to supplement their food needs, and an important aspect of this agricultural production is the seed system. Smallholder farmers in rural areas rely on informal seed systems, and use traditional knowledge and methods to produce, harvest, store, and sell their produce. This research combined quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the role of informal seed systems in promoting food production in rural smallholder agricultural households in South Africa. The narrative review showed reword that while smallholder farmers acquire seed from informal seed systems, they face numerous challenges that affect their production activities. These challenges include poor seed quality and assessment, poor storage and harvesting facilities, which limit proper seed production, and affect crop yield and marketing. Due to these challenges, the ability of rural smallholder farmers to access mainstream markets is limited and as a result, they are confined to local markets that offer lower prices. Moreover, South African policies do not recognize the informal seed system as one of the contributors to food security. This is a major limitation as farmers may not receive the support and assistance they require. Formal recognition and support for informal seed systems would go a long way in improving smallholder farmers’ access to quality seed. This would have ripple effects on their yields and productivity. When properly implemented and given recognition by the government, informal seed systems have the potential to contribute to rural food security and livelihoods.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358