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Forage seed production as a business in smallholder systems of Zimbabwe: a value chain approach.

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The demand for forage seed in Zimbabwe is set to increase as a result of increased demand for high yielding and quality fodder for livestock. There is a projected increase in demand for livestock products, even though livestock productivity has declined due to factors including shortages and reduced quality of feed particularly during the dry season and worsened by frequent droughts. There is need to develop alternative feed resources that would improve livestock productivity at lower costs. Forages have been highlighted as an alternative to livestock feed supply. However, unavailability of forage seed has been a major drawback, especially in Zimbabwe. The forage seed industry has been underdeveloped, coupled with the absence of forage germplasm, efficient seed suppliers and support services. The study focused on developing a model for forage seed production as a business among smallholder farmers. This was built up from investigating forage seed production, challenges faced and opportunities along the seed value chain, actors involved and characterizing factors that could enhance competitiveness of forage seed production in smallholder systems. For data collection, a household survey was conducted to 414 households, 4 Focus Group Discussions and 10 key informant interviews. Multi stage sampling involving purposive sampling of districts and wards, and random sampling techniques were employed during the study. Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS version 21, economic analysis (Gross margin and sensitivity analysis) and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM), whilst qualitative data, NVivo 10 and UCINET for social network analysis were employed. Farmers owned an average of 2.2 ha of land and 63.0 % of this is put under crop and forage production. Forage seed yields were at 89 kg ha-1 and 753 kg ha-1 for lablab and mucuna respectively with gross margin of US$70.89 for lablab and US$611.61 for mucuna. Challenges included lack of knowledge and information, limited land, lack of forage market, lack of ready market for forage seed, lack of knowledge on planting and marketing of forage seed and poorly resourced extension staff to out-scale forage seed production. Opportunities identified include climatic conditions that are conducive for seed production, even without irrigation facilities, availability of extension staff who would be willing to assist farmers and give technical advice, viable seed industry where forage seed can ride on, willingness of private companies to engage farmers in seed production. Actors that interact with farmers along the value chain include researchers, extension personnel, farmer unions and agro-dealers. The Structural Equation Modelling revealed that household gender, level of education, land size and inputs availability positively influenced farmers to adopt forage seed production interventions. Recommendations include intensification of production, investment in irrigation infrastructure, stakeholder engagements and trainings that support farmers along the whole forage seed value chain. The research generated information that farmers could tap into to improve livelihoods. Policy and decision makers could utilize the research findings to develop forage seed-based income generating and livestock improvement interventions that are adaptable to smallholder systems. There have been contributions to knowledge in forage seed production in Zimbabwe and this would inform future forage seed initiatives.


Doctoral degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.