This study documents how poor small-scale farmers in lowland tropical Mexico use improved maize germplasm and how their use contributes to their well being. It does this by assessing both the direct adoption of improved varieties as well as by examining the process of their \"creolization.\" By exposing improved varieties to their conditions and management, continually selecting seed of these varieties for replanting, and in some cases promoting their hybridization with landraces, either by design or by accident, farmers produce what they recognize as \"creolized\" varieties. Our key hypothesis is that poor farmers benefit from improved germplasm through creolization. Creolization provides farmers with new options, as they deliberately modify an improved technology generated by the formal research system to suit their own circumstances and needs. Different methodologies such as participatory methods, ethnography, case studies, a household sample survey, and a collection and agronomic evaluation of maize samples were used. This study was carried out in two regions: the coast of Oaxaca and the Frailesca in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas respectively, two of the poorest states in Mexico. These regions are contrasting—one subsistence-oriented and the other commercial, in both extreme poverty is pervasive. Maize continues to play a key role in the livelihoods of the poor in both regions. Modern varieties and particularly creolized varieties are widely planted in both regions. The results support the hypothesis. The implications of the findings are discussed.
The Impact of Improved Maize Germplasm on the Lives of the ExtremePoor: The Case of Tuxpeño-Derived Material in Mexico presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 26 pp.