AGAINST THE ODDS
Farmer-bred Rice Variety Proves its Worth
By Sherma E. Benosa
It’s a great honor,” said farmer-breeder, Mr. Nguyen Van Tinh of Vietnam, when his very own variety —HD1 — was finally given formal certification by the government of Vietnam. “Being able to develop a variety, which has passed the tedious and stringent national variety and seed certification process is a great honor,” he said.
And indeed it is, besides being a great achievement. For even if there have been many other farmers who have bred their own varieties, very few have so far undergone and successfully hurdled the rigid process of having their variety formally certified.
In fact, Mr. Tinh’s HD1 is the very first farmer-bred variety that holds the distinction of having a formal certification in his country.
Developed by Mr. Tinh from the cross L3400 given to him at filial generation 2 (F2) as his segregating line for his field study in Farmer Field School, HD1 is very popular in Mekong Delta as it has the farmer-preferred qualities in a variety: wide adaptability to local conditions, short maturity period, high grain yield, good grain quality, and good agronomic traits.
The Long Road to Certification
In Vietnam, the only varieties that can be legally mass produced and which the breeder can make legitimate business on are those that are officially certified.
The road to getting certified, however, is uphill and strewn with humps. It entails time, technical capability, and money which most farmers do not have. The HD1 variety underwent the long process of certification that spanned four years, from 2006 to 2010 through outside financial support. Without such support, Mr. Tinh could not have afforded to go through the certification process, as is the case with most farmers.
When in December 2010, the official certification of the HD1 was released, Mr. Tinh could not contain his happiness. After everything he went through, his patience and hard work finally paid off.
According to Mr. Tinh, the certification made it easier to market his variety. Soon he was able to capture the whole of Mekong Delta market, and his seed even reached the southeast and central regions of Vietnam.
And although his breeding work was more out of interest and passion than for profit, he recognized the potential of his variety. “From this product, I could improve my life and livelihood and contribute to the country’s development,” he said.
The formal certification of the HD1 has shown that farmer-bred varieties are of high value, that they are of comparable quality with those developed in research centers in Vietnam. This means farmers can help fill in the gap in the seed supply system today and not several years down the road when they have undergone the long and tedious process of formal seed certification.
Following the certification of the HD1 variety, two local research institutions in Vietnam ( i.e., the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in An Giang Province, and the Seed Center in Vinh Long Province), approved a policy recommendation that provides for technical and financial support for the certification of farmers’ seed varieties.
This breakthrough provides proof of the positive impact of SEARICE’s work on the institutionalization and recognition of the farmers’ work in PGR-CDU and its incorporation into the mainstream research and extension system. This development was an offshoot of SEARICE’s study on the review and assessment of the seed certification system in terms of its appropriateness to farmers’ varieties, which resulted in the realization of local governments for the need to support farmers for their efforts in developing suitable varieties for their farms, which essentially would contribute to improving their local seed system, adaptation to climate change, and food security.
While SEARICE is advocating for a parallel system of recognition of farmer varieties in the long-term, in consideration of the very restrictive seed certification system, this initial support from the government is still a positive result of government’s recognition of farmers’ capacity in breeding and crop improvement.
[Published in BREEDING CHANGE, 2014-2015 SEARICE Report.]