Small and medium-scale public-private partnerships in horticulture for development
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Keatinge, J.D.H., Easdown, W.J., Hughes, J.d’A., Tenkouano, A.
Affordable high quality seed of improved varieties is essential to increase crop production and to reduce poverty and malnutrition, and this is best supplied through public-private partnerships. High value horticultural crops such as vegetables produce much higher incomes than staple crops and smallholder farmers are willing to pay substantial amounts for good seed of open pollinated varieties that they can later reproduce themselves. Small and medium local seed firms have a competitive advantage over multinationals in supplying the niche markets provided by large numbers of smallholder farmers and in dealing with their complex seed distribution chains, but they need public sector research support from national and international partners. The production of quality seed requires technical knowledge of seed biology combined with skills to overcome biological restrictions expertise often best found in the public sector. It also requires managerial skills required to run a seed business, and this is best executed by the private sector. Over the last ten years AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center has worked closely with national agricultural research services and local seed companies in East Africa to promote and distribute improved lines of exotic and indigenous vegetables. This has revolutionized East African tomato production, increasing farmer incomes by an average 39%. Such partnerships also successfully commercialized improved varieties of Africa’s highly nutritious indigenous vegetables previously considered as food for the poor. Less extensive public-private partnerships have been successfully used to develop pheromone traps for insect management in eggplant in South Asia. Profit generation is a strong motivator for consistent and reliable partnerships. A team approach involving farmers, private and public sector institutions combining each partner’s unique strengths and expertise is required to enhance demand, increase the resilience of production systems, and improve the livelihoods of the poor.