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Improved crop varieties cut poverty

Adopting improved crop varieties enables smallholders to increase their income (© Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT)
Adopting improved crop varieties enables smallholders to increase their income
© Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT

Adopting improved crop varieties is one way for smallholder farmers to increase their income and escape poverty, research* from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has revealed. "Agricultural growth and development is not possible without yield-enhancing technological options, because merely expanding the area under cultivation to meet increasing food needs of growing populations is no longer sufficient," explains Menale Kassie, lead author and agricultural economist at CIMMYT. "Research and adoption of technological improvements are thus critical to increasing agricultural productivity and reducing poverty, while sustaining the agro-ecosystems that support livelihoods."

A study on groundnut varieties in Uganda revealed that improved varieties increased income by US$130-254 per hectare and decreased poverty incidence by 7-9 per cent. Meanwhile, a second study, on maize varieties in Tanzania, found that household food security increased while the extent of poverty declined as the area allocated to improved varieties increased.

Average probability of being poor (© Menale Kassie/CIMMYT)
Average probability of being poor
© Menale Kassie/CIMMYT

However, both studies reveal that despite the advantages of growing improved crop varieties, the uneven availability of improved seeds, lack of development of market infrastructure, and poor access to information and agricultural extension services constrained adoption. "Reaching the poor with better technologies requires policy support to address these constraints and strengthen local institutions in order to collectively improve access to seeds, credit and information, all of which will increase both the spread and intensity of adoption," Kassie adds. "Policies that enhance diffusion and adoption of improved crop varieties through seed production should be central to anti-poverty and food security strategies."

* Agricultural Technology, Crop Income, and Poverty Alleviation in Uganda

Date published: January 2012


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