Why farmers engage in seed saving practice in an industrialized country – motivations and values

Authors: Ayako Kawai*, Australian National University
Topics: Cultural Ecology, Environmental Perception, Sustainability Science
Keywords: seed saving, bio-cultural diversity, value, motivation, Japan
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Seed saving in industrialized countries is mainly driven by non-economic values, considering its labor intensity and time-space-consuming nature. While continued seed saving is critical for maintaining bio-cultural diversity in agriculture, many studies show that local variety seeds and the practice of seed saving are no longer transmitted from parents to children. Therefore, alternative transmission pathways are required if a diverse variety of seeds and seed saving practices are to survive.
This research focuses on vegetable seed saving in Japan which is practiced among diverse actors, including traditional farmers, organic farmers and lifestyle farmers. In this presentation, I compare how the motivation and value associated with seed saving differs among these three different types of actors. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews and participatory research, it appears that these types of actors differ in their objectives and interests. Traditional farmers maintain local varieties through seed saving as the vegetables grown are tasty and / or fit to the local ecological and cultural conditions. Organic farmers mainly value the ability of crops to adapt to low-input farming methods and to respond to farmer’s preferences. Among lifestyle farmers, value and motivation ranged widely from those who are engaged in seed saving as their hobby or as part of community revitalization activities, to those who consider seed saving as a means to realize their philosophical view on farming. The differences in values and motivations around seed saving create different seed saving cultures among the three different kinds of actors, resulting in different seed saving management practices.

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