Anticipating Farmer Outcomes of Three Genetically Modified ‘Orphan’ Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Farming Systems Approach

Authors: Brian Dowd-Uribe*, University of San Francisco, Matthew Schnurr, Dalhousie University
Topics: Africa, Cultural and Political Ecology, Food Systems
Keywords: Africa, GMO, Matooke Banana, Maize, Cowpea
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Conventional ex-ante GM crop evaluations do not accurately predict farmer outcomes. Yet these evaluation methods are uniquely being deployed to predict farmer outcomes for a new suite of GM crops currently under experimentation in sub-Saharan Africa that focus on so-called ‘orphan’ crops, i.e. carbohydrate staples that have largely been ignored by investment and innovation. We forward a complimentary ex-ante evaluatory approach – the farming systems approach – which centers the farmer and farming context as key areas for improved anticipation of farmer outcomes with these soon-to-be-released varieties. This approach draws from contemporary efforts to orient crop development and deployment towards farmers and farmer needs and extends these efforts to crop evaluation. We use this approach to conduct a preliminary predictive analysis of three new GM crops in the experimental pipeline: Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) in eastern and southern Africa, Disease-Resistant Matooke Banana in Uganda, and Bt cowpea in Burkina Faso. Our findings suggest that these crops are not likely to significantly improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers. The farming systems approach identifies intervention points where the scope and breath of benefits may be enhanced, including varietal selection, and credit, seed and input delivery systems.

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