Seed Firms Accused of Neglecting Female Farmers

Source: SciDev.net (25 Feb 2016)/Meridian institute
Author: Inga Vesper
A new study by the Access to Seeds Foundation, “Access to Seeds Index Report 2016,” finds that global seed companies are failing to meet the specific needs of female farmers. Seed firms, the report says, focus their research efforts on major cash crops and rarely prioritize the varieties of seeds important to female farmers in developing countries. According to Coosje Hoogendoorn, the head of research at the Access to Seeds Foundation, women look for specific characteristics in their seeds and plants, such as vegetables that can be cooked quickly and grains that take less time to be pounded into flour. “This might be something that men will not be thinking about so much,” she said. “If women have more time for their farm, it helps them move out of poverty and become entrepreneurs.” The report’s authors warn that this gap creates a situation in which female farmers benefit less from advances in seed breeding and agricultural science than male farmers. Regional seed companies, the authors continue, are better at including smallholder farmers in research than their larger counterparts, and could help close the seed gap for women. Local firms, says Ian Barker, the head of agricultural partnerships at the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, could help global companies understand what female farmers need. “That could be one of the big values of this index: it shines a light on these areas that need attention,” he said. more
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