Experimental Agriculture / Volume 46 / Issue 04 / October 2010, pp 425-437
A review of the outcomes of past attempts at establishing sustainable seed producer groups in Nepal showed that after donor support was withdrawn a lack of marketing skills resulted in the groups no longer producing seed. Learning from this review, when we initiated new attempts at establishing sustainable seed producer groups in Chitwan district, Nepal, we emphasized the strengthening of their marketing and managerial capabilities rather than training in technical issues such as seed quality control. We imparted marketing skills to committee members of farmer groups at an initial training course in Chitwan in 2001. This inspired at least three existing farmer groups in Chitwan, already established for other agricultural activities, to enter into cereal and legume seed production and its marketing. Following their establishment in 2002 we supported them initially by purchasing some of their seed production. This was progressively withdrawn and, after three years, the groups independently marketed all of their substantial seed production. They built up capital reserves mainly from subsidies and by attracting funds from new shareholders with only a small contribution from retained profits that were only about 5% of total turnover. The capital reserves reduced or eliminated the need for loans thus increasing the chances that the enterprises would be sustainable. In contrast, other government-supported groups had practically no cash reserves despite substantial seed sales. By 2010, two of the three groups were still operating and had substantially increased turnover. Shareholders who were also seed producers benefited from being members of the group and from an increased income of 10% by producing seed instead of grain. Our intention in supporting these groups was to promote the scaling out of new rice varieties produced by client-oriented breeding (COB) or identified by participatory varietal selection but most of the seed that was produced was of obsolete varieties. Policies are needed to preferentially promote new varieties by supplying more information about them and increasing the subsidy on their seeds compared with older varieties. Continuing promotion by the organizations that bred them is also desirable but constrained by limited funding for COB.