Understanding seed selection among small-scale farmers in Sespond, North West Province

MPhil student Mpho Kanyago introduces her research project; she will be undertaking field work in 2019. Maize is a common staple food across many cultures and accounts for approximately 72% of total production in South Africa. The North West Province is one of South Africa’s highest white maize producers and is also known for its diverse agricultural economy which comprises commercial, industrial and subsistence farming. There are different varieties of maize grown across these lands... Read More

Water, uncertain futures, and maize seed

PhD candidate Maya Marshak writes about a public seminar in Durban. At the end of January I attended a public seminar on GM Contamination in the Durban Botanical gardens, organised by Biowatch South Africa and the Bio-economy Chair at UCT. Speakers included: two farmers - Thombithini Ndwandwe, co-founder of the Zimele Rural Empowerment Organisation in Mtubatuba and Petros Makhanya from Kwangwanase; Vanessa Black from Biow... Read More

Growing GM maize – outcomes for small-scale farmers in Hlabisa, KZN

Hellen Mahlase reports back on her Masters project. The use of genetically modified (GM) seed is a controversial topic, with opinions of consumers, scientists and farmers around the globe divided about its value in food and other goods, and concerns expressed over potential health and environmental impacts. Introduced in South Africa in the 1990s, the uptake of GM crops, and particularly GM maize, has been substantial, wi... Read More

The ‘Silent Scream’ of ‘Pathetic Seeds’

A synthesis of a recently submitted Masters dissertation by Jen Whittingham. The inspiration for this title came from two very stimulating yet contrasting interviews that took place during the research. The language demonstrates the emotive dimensions of the topic and the divergent perspectives that exist across the GMO landscape in South Africa. The risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops has been assumed to be a benign r... Read More

Envisioning a resilient future for farmer-led seed systems in southern Africa

In mid-September 2016, around 40 participants gathered in Salt Rock on the KwaZulu-Natal coast for the third annual seminar of the Seed and Knowledge Initiative, titled: ‘How do we maintain, restore, and strengthen resilient and diverse seed and knowledge systems in southern Africa?’ The seminar comprised of an inspiring and energetic set of presentations, panel discussions, and group work, and included a day trip to the Zimele Project outside Mtubatuba - visiting a group of... Read More

Have GM crops helped or hindered South African smallholder farmers?

Masters student, Hellen Mahlase, reports on her work. In this project two case study areas were selected to illustrate the perceived benefits and problems associated with the adoption of modern biotechnology in smallholder agriculture. Genetically modified maize (GM) was selected as a lens to observe changes in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape. Fieldwork was conducted in the ... Read More

The Agri/Cultures team meeting in South Africa

PhD candidate Maya Marshak reflects on a week in the field in KwaZulu-Natal. In mid-April 2016 we had our first Agri/Cultures project meeting in South Africa. The AgriCultures project which falls within the work of the Norwegian research institute GenØk, is focused on developing novel concepts, methods and empirical knowledge for understanding and assessing the complex relational networks embodied in and performed by agr... Read More

Agroecology Conference


Cape Town, South Africa, 28-30 January 2019 "The real solutions to the crises of the climate, malnutrition etc., will not come from conforming to the industrial model. We must transform it and build our own local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production by peasants, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peopl... Read More

Platform for SKI-related research established in Zimbabwe

The Seed and Knowledge Initiative has expanded its reach by establishing a research forum in Zimbabwe. Convened by Dr Isiah Mharapara, Chief Executive Officer of the Zimbabwean Agricultural Research Council, the forum provides an intellectual and support platform for postgraduate students, researchers and practitioners to deepen understanding about seed and knowledge issues in Zimbabwe. In so doing it aims to open avenues for gathering evidence to inform policy making and to support small-holder... Read More