Commissioned by the Central Research Team (CRT) of the Research Into Use (RIU) programme, this study was motivated by reports from Zambia of the multiplication of NERICA 4 seed and its distribution in October 2010 to farmers through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). The delivery of NERICA seed coincided with various efforts, including one spearheaded by RIU-Zambia, to purify local rice landraces and extract high quality planting with the view of contributing towards improved yields and capitalising on the overall development potential of the rice subsector. The event serves to contrast two distinct approaches towards pursuing productivity gains in a crop of increasing economic importance: the introduction of a new seed variety into the production system versus the purification of widely-used local landraces. This case study documents these two approaches and explores their wider ramifications. It highlights how a ‘quick fix’ and top-down method of seed multiplication — bearing the hallmarks of a Green Revolution-era paradigm of agricultural development — risks stifling innovation capacity on the ground. It also emphasises the importance for locally-based initiatives to forge effective linkages to national-level policy communities and debates. In their absence, policy risks imposing actions that are out-of-step with grassroots momentum.
RIU 2011 Discussion Paper 21, 38 pp.