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Filling a Niche? The Maize Productivity Impacts of Adaptive Breeding by a Local Seed Company in Kenya -- by Samuel S. Bird, Michael R. Carter, Travis J. Lybbert, Mary W. K. Mathenge, Timothy Njagi Njeru, Emilia Tjernström

This paper explores the idea that a competitive seed system may systematically underserve farmers in small, agro-ecological niches, leaving potential yield gains on the table and farmers in these areas less productive and poorer than they need be. We develop a simple theoretical model that illustrates how a confluence of demand and supply factors can result in such an under-serviced equilibrium. To study the empirical veracity of this model, we study the disruption of the maize seed market in Western Kenya that took place when a combination of public sector foundation breeding and social impact investment capital allowed a local seed company to expand and target a niche agro-ecological zone with adaptively-bred maize varieties. A three-year randomized controlled trial reveals that the impacts of these seed varieties on farmer yields and revenues in the niche market were substantial, both for better-resourced farmers (who used non-adapted hybrids and fertilizer prior to the intervention) as well less well-resourced farmers (who did not). Taken together, this theoretical and empirical evidence suggests news ways for thinking about seeds systems in areas typified by the high levels of agro-ecological heterogeneity found in important parts of sub-Saharan Africa.