Editor: Dr. Dick Tinsley is an Emeritus Professor with Colorado State University. With decades of experience as an advisor to smallholder agriculture development projects, he was worked in numerous locations across Asia and Africa. In this article, Dr. Tinsley draws upon his experience regarding locations where governmental certified crop seed development and distribution programs remain insufficient to meet agricultural demands and suggests a concept that he refers to as the "Crop Genetic Pump" to show how the non-governmental sector might facilitate access to seeds of improved varieties.
In the overall economic environment common to most developing countries, the government usually attempts to provide civil services, including agricultural support services, similar to those provided by developed countries. This normally substantially exceeds the limited revenue funds and results in many programs being more on paper than in reality. When possible, important services such as these are deferred to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Included among these are crop variety development, seed multiplication and distribution efforts. NGOs working with smallholder communities have an excellent opportunity to informally provide a valuable and durable service by obtaining small quantities of advanced breeding lines for the important crops produced in their host communities. They can then multiply them within the community for sale and distribution to the smallholder farmers at or near market seed prices instead of at certified seed prices, which typically cost twice as much.