Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 539–553 | Cite as

Seed Systems and Farmers’ Seed Choices: The Case of Maizein the Peruvian Amazon

  • Per M. StrombergEmail author
  • Unai Pascual
  • Mauricio R. Bellon


This paper analyzes how local seed system institutions support seed diversity, itself a requirement for agrobiodiversity maintained on-farm. The paper focuses on maize seed diversity in the central Peruvian Amazon. Using household and community level data from three different cultural groups from the central Peruvian Amazon, empirical results show the importance of collective action and the mediating role of ethnicity in the functioning of informal seed systems that in turn affect farmers’ choices regarding conservation of seed diversity. This implies that policies are needed to protect the relatively open seed exchanges of such local practices as a way to sustain on-farm agrobiodiversity.


Agrobiodiversity Collective action Ethnicity Peru 



We would like to thank the Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible de Ucayali (CODESU), in particular Luis Collado and Roger Pinedo, for data collection and technical support in the field. Special thanks are also owed to community members in the Peruvian Amazon and to Manuel Glave, Ricardo Sevilla, Claudia Ituarte, Ernesto Apto, Luis Limachi, Isabel Ore, Elinor Ostrom and Christine Padoch for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Financial support from the Cambridge European Trust, CT Taylor Fund and St Edmunds College, Cambridge, is acknowledged. Lastly, we thank Judith Thompson for editorial assistance.


  1. Almekinders, C. J. M., Louwaars, N. P., and de Bruijn, G. H. (1994). Local Seed Systems and Their Importance for an Improved Seed Supply in Developing Countries. Euphytica 78: 207–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arevalo, M. (1999). Modalidades de reciprocidad comunitaria en el Bajo Mayo. In Arevalo, M., Panduro, R., Quinteros, A., and Rengifo, G. (eds.), Hacer Brillar la Chacra. Agricultura Campesina Alto Amazonica, San Martin, pp. 51–70.Google Scholar
  3. Badstue, L. B., Bellon, M. R., Berthaud, J., Ramirez, A., Flores, D., and Juarez, X. (2007). The Dynamics of Farmers’ Maize Seed Supply Practices in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico. World Development 35(9): 1579–1593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Badstue, L. B., Bellon, M. R., Berthaud, J., Juarez, X., Rosas, I. M., Solano, A. M., and Ramirez, J. (2006). Examining the Role of Collective Action in an Informal Seed System: A Case Study from the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico. Human Ecology 34(2): 249–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ban, N., and Coomes, O.T. (2004). Home Gardens in Amazonian Peru: diversity and exchange of planting material. The Geographical Review 94(3) July: 348–367. Google Scholar
  6. Behrens, C. A. (1992). Labor Specialization and the Formation of Markets for Food in a Shipibo Subsistence Economy. Human Ecology 20(4): 435–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bellon, MR. (2009). Do we need crop landraces for the future? Realizing the global option value of in situ conservation. In Kontoleon, A., Pascual, U., and Smale, M. (eds.), Agrobiodiversity and Economic Development. Routledge, London and New York, pp. 51–59.Google Scholar
  8. Bellon, M. R. (2004). Conceptualizing Interventions to Support On-farm Genetic Resource Conservation. World Development 32: 159–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bellon, M. R., Pham, J. L., and Jackson, M. T. (1997). Genetic conservation: A role for rice farmers. In Maxted, N., Ford-Lloyd, B. V., and Hawkes, J. G. (eds.), Plant Conservation: the In Situ Approach. Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 263–289.Google Scholar
  10. Bellon, M. R., Berthaud, J., Smale, M., Aguirre, J. A., Taba, S., Aragón, F., Díaz, J., and Castro, H. (2003). Participatory Landrace Selection for on Farm Conservation: An Example from the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 50: 401–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bellon, M. R., Anderson, C. L., Lipper, L., Dalton, T. J., and Keleman, A. (2009). Synthesis Chapter: Markets, seed systems and crop diversity. In Lipper, L., Anderson, C. L., and Dalton, T. J. (eds.), Seed Trade in Rural Markets: Implications for Crop Diversity and Agricultural Development. Earthscan, London, UK, pp. 191–210.Google Scholar
  12. Benin, S. Gebremedhin, B. Smale, M. Pender, J. , and Ehui, S. (2003). Determinants of Cereal Diversity in Communities and on Household Farms of the Northern Ethiopian Highlands. EPTD Discussion Paper 105, Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  13. Benz, B., Brush, S. B., and Perales, H. (2007). Tzeltal and Tzotzil Farmer Knowledge and Maize Diversity in Chiapas, Mexico. Current Anthropology 48: 289–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brush, S.B. (2000). The issues of in situ conservation of crop genetic resources. In Brush, S.B. (ed.), Genes in the Field: On-Farm Conservation of Crop Diversity, IDRC/IPGRI/Lewis Publishers. Rome, Italy, Ottawa, Canada pp. 3–28.Google Scholar
  15. Brush, S. B. (2004). Farmers’ Bounty. Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  16. Brush, S., and Meng, E. (1998). Farmers’ Valuation and Conservation of Crop Genetic Resources. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 45: 139–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brush, S.B. and Perales, H.R. (2007). A Maize Landscape: Ethnicity and Agro-biodiversity in Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 121(3) July: 211–221.Google Scholar
  18. Cardenas J. C. and Ostrom, E. (2004). What do people bring into the game? Experiments in the field about cooperation in the commons. Agricultural Systems 82: 307–326.Google Scholar
  19. Cavatassi, R. Lipper, L. and Hopkins, J. (2006). The Role of Crop Genetic Diversity in Coping with Agricultural Production Shocks: Insights from Eastern Ethiopia. ESA Working Paper no. 06–17 December, Agricultural Development Economics Division The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Google Scholar
  20. Cavatassi, R. Lipper, L. and Winters, P. (2007). Sowing the Seeds of Social Relations: The Role of Social Capital in Crop Diversity. Presented at 9th Annual BioEcon Conference on Economics and Institutions for Biodiversity Conservation, Kings College, University of Cambridge, September.Google Scholar
  21. Collado, L. A. Arroyo, M. Riesco, A. , and Chávez Servia, J. L. (2004a). Experiencias sobre la diversidad en los cultivos y aspectos económicos de la conservación in situ en la Amazonia central peruana. In Chávez-Servia, J.L. Tuxill, J. Jarvis, D.I (Eds) Manejo de la diversidad de los cultivos en los agroecosistemas tradicionales. Instituto Internacional de Recursos Fitogenéticos. Cali, Colombia. Pp: 188–198.Google Scholar
  22. Collado, L. Chavez-Servia, J. L., and Riesco de la Vega, A. (2005). Variedades Locales y el Abastecimiento de Semillas en Ucayali. Report, Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible de Ucayali, Pucallpa.Google Scholar
  23. Collado, L., Pinedo, R., Sevilla, R., and Chavez, J.L. (2004b). Diversidad Genetica en el Maiz en el Amazonas Central Peruano. XX Reunion Latinoamericana de Maiz, 11 al 14 de Octubre de 2004, Lima.Google Scholar
  24. Dennis, E., Ilyasov, J., van Dusen, M. E., Lee, S., Treshkin, S., and Smale, M. (2005). Social institutions and seed systems: the diversity of fruits and nuts in Uzbekistan. In Smale (ed.), Valuing Crop Biodiversity: On-farm Genetic Resources and Economic Change. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 192–210.Google Scholar
  25. Emperaire, Peroni, N. (2007). Traditional Management of Agrobiodiversity in Brazil: A Case Study of Manioc. Human Ecology 36(6): 761–768.Google Scholar
  26. Harlan, J. R. (1975). Our Vanishing Genetic Resources. Science 188: 618–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heckler, S. L. (2004). Cultivating sociality: Aesthetic Factors in the Composition and Function of Piaroa Homegardens. Journal of Ethnobiology 24: 203–232.Google Scholar
  28. Heckler, S., and Zent, S. (2008). Piaroa Manioc Varietals: Hyperdiversity or Social Currency. Human Ecology 36: 679–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hintze, L. H., Ortiz, O., and Winters, P. (2005). Rural development and the diversity of potatoes on farmers in Cajamarca, Peru. In Smale, M. (ed.), Valuing Crop Diversity. CABI Publishing, Oxfordshire, pp. 146–161.Google Scholar
  30. Hodgkin, T., Rana, R., Tuxill, J., Balma, D., Subedi, A., Mar, I., Karamura, D., Valdivia, R., Collado, L., Latournerie, L., Sadiki, M., Sawadogo, M., Brown, A. H. D., and Jarvis, D. I. (2007). Seed systems and crop genetic diversity in agroecosystems. In Jarvis, D. I., Padoch, C., and Cooper, H. D. (eds.), Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Systems. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 77–116.Google Scholar
  31. Killick, E. (2008). Godparents and Trading Partners: Social and Economic Relations in Peruvian Amazonia. Journal of Latin American Studies 40: 303–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Killick, E. (2009). Ashéninka Amity: A Study of Social Relations in an Amazonian Society. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 15: 701–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. King, A., and Smale, M. (2005a). Targeting Conservation Policy. Research at a glance, Brief 18. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington.Google Scholar
  34. King, A., and Smale, M. (2005b). Traits and Taxonomies — Building Blocks for Understanding Diversity. Research at a glance, Brief 14. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington.Google Scholar
  35. King, A., and Smale, M. (2005c). Crop Diversity and Economic Change. Research at a glance, Brief 15. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington.Google Scholar
  36. Labarta, R. A. White, D. Leguía, E. Guzmán, W., Soto, J. (2007) La Agricultura en la Amazonia Ribereña del Río Ucayali: ¿Una Zona Productiva Pero Poco Rentable?. Acta Amazonica 37(2): 177–186.Google Scholar
  37. Lipper, L., Anderson, C., Dalton, T.J. (eds) (2009). Seed Trade in Rural Markets: Implications for Crop Diversity and Agricultural Development. Earthscan: London, UK.Google Scholar
  38. Louette, D., Charrier, A., and Berthaud, J. (1997). In Situ Conservation of Maize in Mexico: Genetic Diversity and Maize Seed Management in a Traditional Community. Economic Botany 51: 20–38.Google Scholar
  39. McGuire, S. (2007). Vulnerability in Farmer Seed Systems: Farmer Practices for Coping with Seed Insecurity for Sorghum in Eastern Ethiopia. Economic Botany 61: 211–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Morris, M. L., Rusike, L., and Smale, M. (1998). Maize seed industries: a conceptual framework”. In Morris, M. L. (ed.), Maize Seed Industries in Developing Countries. Lynne Riener and CIMMYT, Boulder, Colorado, pp. 35–54.Google Scholar
  41. Morris, M., and Lopez-Pereira, M. A. (1999). Impacts of Maize Breeding Research in Latin America 1966–1997. Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT). Mexico, D.F.Google Scholar
  42. Nagarajan, L., and Smale, M. (2005). Local Seed Systems and Village-level Determinants of Millet Crop Diversity in Marginal Environments of India. IFPRI.Google Scholar
  43. Nature (2004). Monsanto Wins Seven-year Court Battle for Seed Patent. 429, 27 May: 330.Google Scholar
  44. Padoch, C., and De Jong, W. (1991). The House Gardens of Santa Rosa: Diversity and Variability in an Amazonian Agricultural System. Economic Botany 45(2): 166–175.Google Scholar
  45. Panduro, R. (1999). Agricultura campesina Alto Amazonica y biodiversidad. In Arevalo, M. Panduro, Quinteros, R. and Rengifo, G. (eds.), Hacer Brillar la Chacra. Agricultura Campesina Alto Amazonica. San Martin, Peru, pp. 15–36.Google Scholar
  46. Pascual, U., and Perrings, C. (2007). Developing Incentives and Economic Eechanisms for in Situ Biodiversity Conservation in Agricultural Landscapes. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment 121(3): 256–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Perales, H. R., Benz, B. F., and Brush, S. B. (2005). Maize Diversity and Ethnolinguistic Diversity in Chiapas, Mexico. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. 102(3): 949–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pretty, J. N. (1995). Regenerating Agriculture: Policies and Practices for Sustainability and Self-Seliance. Joseph Henry Press, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  49. Putsche, L. A. (2000). Reassessment of Resource Depletion, Market Dependency, and Culture Change on a Shipibo Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon. Human Ecology 28(1): 131–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reyes-García, V., Vadez, V., Martí, N., Huanca, T., Leonard, W. R., and Tanner, S. (2008). Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Crop Diversity in Swidden Fields: A Study in a Native Amazonian Society. Human Ecology 36: 569–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Riesco, A. (1995) Conservacion del Bosque Amazonico, Una Estrategia Comun Sobre la Base de la Estabilizacion de la Agricultura Migratoria y el Manejo Sostenible del Bosque: Proyecto Bosque. Procitropicos, Pucallpa, Peru.Google Scholar
  52. Smale, M. (2002). The conceptual framework for economics research in IPGRI’s Global In-situ Conservation On-farm Project. In Smale, M., Már, I. and Jarvis, D.I. (eds.), The Economics of Conserving Agricultural Biodiversity On-farm. Proceedings of a Workshop hosted by the Institute for Agrobotany (IA), Hungary, and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), Italy. Gödöllo, Hungary. May 13–16 2002.Google Scholar
  53. Smale M., Diakité L., Grum, M., Jones H., Traoré I.S., and Guindo H. (2010). The Impact of Participation in Diversity Field Fora on Farmer Management of Millet and Sorghum Varieties in Mali. African Journal for Agricultural and Resource Economics. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
  54. Smith, J., van de Kop, P., Reategui, K., Lombardi, I., Sabogal, C., and Diaz, A. (1999). Dynamics of secondary forests in slash-and-burn farming: interactions among land use types in the Peruvian Amazon. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 76: 85–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sribney, B. (1998). Advantages of the Robust Variance Estimator. StataCorp,, accessed 25th March 2008.
  56. Vadez, V., Reyes-García, V., Godoy, R. A., Apaza, L., Byron, E., Huanca, T., Leonard, W. R., Perez, E., and Wilkie, D. (2004). Does Integration to the Market Threaten Agricultural Diversity? Panel and Cross-sectional Data from a Horticultural-foraging Society in the Bolivian Amazon. Human Ecology 32: 635–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. van Dusen, E. (2004). A metapopulation Approach to Farmer Seed Systems: Methodology for Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Policy. Presented at 4th Annual BioEcon Conference on Economics and Institutions for Biodiversity Conservation, Kings College, University of Cambridge, September.Google Scholar
  58. van Dusen, E., and Taylor, E. (2005). Missing Markets and Crop Diversity: Evidence from Mexico. Environmental and Development Economics 10: 513–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. van Etten, J., and de Bruin, S. (2007). Regional and Local Maize Seed Exchange and Replacement in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization 5: 57–70.Google Scholar
  60. Winters, P., Cavatassi, R., and Lipper, L. (2006). Sowing the Seeds of Social Relations: The Role of Social Capital in Crop Diversity. ESA working paper 06–16. FAO, Rome.Google Scholar
  61. Yanggen, D. R., and Reardon, T. (2001). Kudzu-improved Fallows in the Peruvian Amazon? In Angelsen, A., and Kaimowitz, D. (eds.), Agricultural Intensification and Deforestation. CABI, Wallingford and New York, pp. 213–230.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Per M. Stromberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Unai Pascual
    • 1
  • Mauricio R. Bellon
    • 1
  1. 1.United Nations University - Institute of Advanced StudiesNishi-kuJapan

Personalised recommendations