Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 969–982 | Cite as

Formal and informal relations to rice seed systems in Kerala, India: agrobiodiversity as a gendered social-ecological artifact

  • Michaela Schöley
  • Martina Padmanabhan


Agrobiodiversity is an evident outcome of a long-lasting human–nature relationship, as the continuous use, conservation and management of crops has resulted in biological as well as cultural diversity of seeds and breeds. This paper aims to understand the interlocking of formal and informal seed supply routes by considering the dynamic flow of seeds within networks across the intersections of gender, ethnicity and age in South India as social categories structuring human–nature relations. This changing relationship under formal and informal institutional settings has consequences on performance for men and women in rice seed systems. Undertaking an empirical analysis of the organization of seed management and exchange, we seek to shed light on the gendered organization of agrobiodiversity as a social network. The study builds on Net-Map interviews conducted in 2012, embedded in the larger BioDIVA project in the district of Wayanad in Kerala, India. Based on network analysis, the interactive method employed has enabled identification of important actors in the seed system and the characteristics of their relationships. We look into the gendered structure of information exchange regarding seed varieties and actual seed transactions, while also examining clusters of actors collaborating regarding seed supply. Finally, we identify the institutional gap concerning seed sources left by formal and informal institutions, like the availability of varieties. We show how informal and formal seed systems coexist and overlap due to actors moving between systems and argue that the degree and areas of overlap are shaped by gendered human–nature relations.


Seed systems Agrobiodiversity Gender-nature relationship 



Convention on biological diversity


Directorate of economics and statistics



Funding was provided by Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Grant No. BioDIVA 01UU0908).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Quality ManagementMetzgerei Boneberger GmbHSchongauGermany
  2. 2.Chair of Comparative Development and Cultural StudiesUniversity of PassauPassauGermany

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