A decade of economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe, as well as a period of radical land reform which reconfigured the country’s agricultural sector, dramatically affected its seed system, reducing supply of quality seeds and undermining regulatory control. This paper aims to understand how Zimbabwe can rebuild a seed system appropriate to the post-land reform context by asking questions about the underlying political economy of this process, exploring the important but often overlooked angle of politics of policymaking and identifying the broader political, economic and institutional factors that affect the way the seed system is structured. As Zimbabwe tries to re-establish its formerly vibrant agricultural sector following land reform, perspectives focus on technical and market solutions, with an absence of concrete analysis and debate about political economic aspects. Yet it is these wider dimensions of policy processes, and particularly the politics underlying these, which inevitably carry the day. Therefore, this study maps the national seed system, examines its historical origins and identifies key policy narratives, actors and networks and political interests shaping the Zimbabwean seed system. It highlights how a number of competing narratives co-exist in the current national policy debate, each suggesting a different route to revitalising the seed system. The dominant narrative, supported by powerful national and international actors and associated interests, has been excluding, obscuring and silencing two important alternative narratives. These alternatives highlight the need to rebuild the private sector with all its ancillary structures for input distribution and the importance of agricultural diversification, non-maize pathways and the need to build from the grassroots. The suppressing of alternatives was done through different political economic processes, justified by particular technical arguments that were supported by clear interests. This potentially undermines longer term recovery based on rebuilding the seed system through the private sector and strengthening formal and informal farmer-based seed systems.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 015, August 2010, 29 pp.