, Volume 127, Issue 1, pp 11–30 | Cite as

Farmers' highland maize (Zea mays L.) selection criteria: Implication for maize breeding for the Hararghe highlands of eastern Ethiopia

  • Eshetu Mulatu
  • Habtamu Zelleke


Despite the presence of large numbers of improved maize cultivars, farmers in the Hararghe highlands of eastern Ethiopia persistently grow local cultivars and are not benefiting from the varietal improvement program. By growing local cultivars farmers obtain an average yield of 1.2 t -1 whereas research has released cultivars yielding 5–11 t -1under on-station conditions. Recognizing this and the important role maize is playing in the livelihood system of farmers in eastern Ethiopia; Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) was conducted for three consecutive seasons (1996–1998) in three locations. The objectives of the study were to identify farmers' cultivar selection criteria for future breeding, to enable farmers to assess the performance of improved cultivars under their management, to increase farmers' access to the cultivars of their preference by injecting source seed into the local seed system, and to investigate whether breeding for wide adaptation like for the Hararghe highlands has any drawbacks or not. The study indicated farmers' maize varietal selection criteria together with the differences in selection criteria across locations classified under the same adaptation zone. Though farmers selected some of the many improved cultivars tested, no improved cultivar had all the characteristics, which farmers want in a single cultivar. To be able to combine cultivar selection traits farmers considered cultivar combinations in all locations, but not the single `best' cultivar. Despite the yield advantage of hybrids, farmers selected Open Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) because they had more preferred traits. Farmers also preferred to retain their local cultivars despite their lower yield compared to most of the improved cultivars. Both situations confirmed how resource poor farmers' cultivar requirements are much more diverse than yield per se. Gender and social group-driven difference in cultivar preference was also observed. The study revealed the need for proper zoning of the Hararghe highlands as a prerequisite to developing better adapted maize cultivars to the varied agro ecological and socioeconomic niches. As shown in this study, proper zoning, due consideration to farmers' relevant selection traits and wider use of participatory approaches should be adapted to develop cultivars which can gain farmers acceptance.

eastern Ethiopia farmers' cultivar selection criteria participatory varietal selection ranking specific adaptation zoning 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alemaya University of Agriculture (AUA), 1996. Project Appraisal Document for Alemaya Woreda. Farming Systems Research Unit, AUA, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.Google Scholar
  2. Almekinders, C.J.M., N.P. Louwaars & G.H. de Bruijn, 1994. Local seed systems and their importance for an improved seed supply in developing countries. Euphytica 78: 207–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashby, J.A., 1982. Technology and ecology: Implications for innovation research in peasant agriculture. Rural Soc 47(2): 234–250.Google Scholar
  4. Bay, A.P.M., 1997. The seed sector in Mozambique. Seed Sci Technol 25: 427–442.Google Scholar
  5. Cromwell, E., E. Friis-Hansen & M. Turner, 1992. The seed sector in developing countries. A framework for performance analysis. Working paper 65. London: Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  6. Cromwell, E., 1996. Governments, Farmers and Seeds in a Changing Africa. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International, Wallingford, UK.Google Scholar
  7. CSA (Central Statistics Authority), 1995. Agricultural Sample survey 1994/95 (1987 E.C.): Report on agricultural practices (private peasant holdings, main season), Vol. III. Statistical Bulletin 132, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: CSA.Google Scholar
  8. CSA (Central Statistics Authority, 1997. Agricultural Sample Survey 1996/97 (1989 E.C.): Report on farm management practices (private peasant holdings, ‘meher’ season), Vol. III. Statistical Bulletin 171, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: CSA.Google Scholar
  9. CSA (Central Statistics Authority), 1998. Agricultural Sample Survey 1996/97 (1989 E.C.): Report on farm management practices of ‘belg’ season crops for 1996/97 (1989 E.C.) (Private peasant holdings), Vol. III. Statistical Bulletin 171, Addis Ababa: CSA.Google Scholar
  10. Haugerud, A. & M.P. Collinson, 1990. Plants, genes and people: Improving the relevance of plant breeding in Africa. Exp Agric 26: 341–362.Google Scholar
  11. Joshi, A. & J.R. Witcombe, 1996. Farmer participatory crop improvement. II. Participatory varietal selection, a case study in India. Exp Agric 32: 461–477.Google Scholar
  12. Maurya, D.M., A. Bottrall & J. Farrington, 1988. Improved livelihoods, genetic diversity and farmers’ participation: a strategy for rice breeding in rainfed areas of India. Exp Agric 24: 311–320.Google Scholar
  13. Mekbib, F., 1997. Farmer participation in common bean genotype evaluation: the case of eastern Ethiopia. Exp Agric 33: 399–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mohammed, Y.K. & E. Mulatu, 1998. Use of oxen in the traditional farming systems of eastern Ethiopia: Experience in the eastern Hararghe. In Proc 1st Nat oxen traction research review and strategy workshop, 3-5 December, 1997. EARO and ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.Google Scholar
  15. Mulatu, E. & K. Belete, 2001. Participatory varietal selection in lowland sorghum in eastern Ethiopia: Impact on adoption and genetic diversity. Exp Agric 37: 211–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mulatu, E. & H. Kassa, 2001. Evolution of smallholder mixed farming systems in the Harar highlands of Ethiopia: The shift towards trees and shrubs. J Sust Agric 18(4): 81–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mutsaers, H.J.W., G.K. Weber, P. Walker & N.M. Fischer, 1997. A field guide for on farm experimentation. IITA / CTA / ISNAR. NSIA (National Seed Industry Agency), 1998. Crop variety register, Issue No. 1. NSIA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.Google Scholar
  18. Simmonds, N.W., 1991. Selection for local adaptation in a plant breeding program. Theor Appl Genet 82: 363–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sperling, L., M.E. Loevinsohn & B. Ntabomrra, 1993. Rethinking the farmers role in plant breeding: local bean experts and onstation selection in Rwanda. Exp Agric 29: 509–519.Google Scholar
  20. Tripp, R., 1996. Biodiversity and modern crop varieties: Sharpening the debate. Agric Hum Val 13: 48–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Tripp, R., 1997. The institutional conditions for seed enterprise development. Working Paper 105. London: Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  22. Tripp, R. & N. Louwaars, 1997. The conduct and reform of crop variety regulation In: R. Tripp (Ed.), New Seed and Old Laws: Regulatory Reform and the Diversification of National Seed Systems, pp. 88–120. Intermediate Technology Publications, London.Google Scholar
  23. Tripp, R., N. Louwaars, W.J. Van Der Burg, D.S. Virk & J.R. Witcombe, 1997. Alternatives for seed regulatory reform: An analysis of variety testing, variety regulation and seed quality control. Agricultural Research and Extension Network Paper No. 69. London, Overseas Development Institute (ODI).Google Scholar
  24. Virk, D.S., A.J. Packwood & J.R. Witcombe, 1996. Varietal testing and popularization and research linkages, Centre for Arid Zone Studies Discussion Paper No. 2, CAZS, Bangor, UK.Google Scholar
  25. Wibaux, H., 1986. Agriculture in the Highlands of Hararghe, Kombolcha area: Study of six farms. Alemaya University of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics/French Technical cooperation, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.Google Scholar
  26. Witcombe, J.R., A. Joshi, K.D. Joshi & B.R. Sthapit, 1996. Farmer participatory crop improvement. I. Varietal selection and breeding methods and their impact on biodiversity. Exp Agric 32: 445–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Witcombe, J.R. & D.S. Virk, 1997. New directions for public sector variety testing. In: R. Tripp (Ed.), New Seed and Old Laws: Regulatory Reform and the Diversification of National Seed Systems, pp. 59–87. Intermediate Technology Publications, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eshetu Mulatu
    • 1
  • Habtamu Zelleke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesAlemaya University, College of AgricultureDire DawaEthiopia

Personalised recommendations