Human Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 249–273 | Cite as

Examining the Role of Collective Action in an Informal Seed System: A Case Study from the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico

  • Lone B. Badstue
  • Mauricio R. Bellon
  • Julien Berthaud
  • Xóchitl Juárez
  • Irma Manuel Rosas
  • Ana María Solano
  • Alejandro Ramírez

This paper explores social arrangements associated with seed transactions among small-scale maize farmers in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico, where no formal seed supply system exists. We test the hypothesis that individual farmers have strong incentives to participate in some form of collective action to ensure their access to seed. Six communities were studied, three of them in detail, using in-depth, semistructured interviews with key informants; focus group discussions; and a tracer study that followed seed flows among farmers. Farmers mostly saved seed and only occasionally acquired seed from outside sources. We found no evidence of a specialized social organization based on collective action to mediate seed flows. Seed transactions are infrequent, bilateral, and ad hoc, although trust is an important component, as it ensures reliable information about the seed is provided. Implications of these findings are discussed, especially for genetic diversity if the current supply system breaks down.


maize small-scale farmers informal seed supply collective action Mexico 



This work was carried out with a grant from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Systemwide Initiative on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi). We thank Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Monica Di Gregorio, Amanda King, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper, as well as the farmers who participated in this research for the information they provided and for their kindness and patience. We also want to thank Kelly Cassaday for much-appreciated editorial assistance


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lone B. Badstue
    • 1
  • Mauricio R. Bellon
    • 1
  • Julien Berthaud
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xóchitl Juárez
    • 3
  • Irma Manuel Rosas
    • 1
  • Ana María Solano
    • 1
  • Alejandro Ramírez
    • 1
  1. 1.International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)MexicoMexico
  2. 2.Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)Centre de Montpellier BP 64501 Ave. Agropolis 911Montpellier, Cedex 5France
  3. 3.Sistema de Centros RegionalesUniversidad Autónoma de Chapingo (UACH)Edo de MéxicoMéxico

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