Forage seed value chain analysis in a subhumid region of Zimbabwe: perspectives of smallholder producers
In smallholder systems, farmers are increasingly becoming aware of the need to improve livestock productivity through production of quality fodder. This is in response to scarcity of feed, particularly in the dry season, associated with seasonal variations, land degradation and the need to meet increases in demand for livestock products. The study investigated forage seed production, marketing, challenges faced and opportunities along the value chain in Zimbabwe. Data were collected from 414 smallholder farmer households through a survey, four focus group discussions and 12 key informants. Results show that forage seed is mainly sourced from development organisations. Actors include farmer producers, seed companies, research and extension institutions, and NGOs. Seed is disseminated through sales to other farmers and organisations, sharing, seed exchanges and payment for services. Challenges include unavailability of seed, under-developed markets, weak or non-existent linkages between seed suppliers and farmers, limited knowledge on seed production and marketing, and low market prices. Forage seed have comparatively higher gross margins (US$611.61 for mucuna and US$644.14 for cowpea) compared with conventional seed such as maize (−US$382.70). Opportunities arise from the growing demand for animal products, which is associated with expanding populations and the need for improved nutrition.
Keywords: forage seed value chain, seed production, smallholder, Zimbabwe