Genebanks contribute to poverty reduction as well as food and nutritional security by being one of the main sources of diversity for the development of improved crop varieties. While the welfare implications of adopting improved varieties have been documented in many rural settings, little attention has been placed on genebanks that often supply key traits and genetic diversity to plant breeders by providing seed samples. In this study, we examined the contribution of the genebank housed by the International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT) to the development of improved groundnut varieties used by farmers in Malawi. We then related this apportioned genebank contribution to market outcomes, such as market participation and the quantity of groundnut sold in markets.
Pedigree data obtained through consultations with genebank scientists and breeders were used in combination with a three-wave balanced household-level panel dataset of 447 smallholder farmers in Malawi. Different econometric techniques were used, including a double hurdle model to understand market participation and quantity of groundnuts sold.
We found households to be using six improved groundnut varieties, four of which were traced to the ICRISAT genebank. We analyzed pedigrees of the varieties and apportioned the ancestral contribution of the genebank accessions. Linking the improved varieties grown by farmers with genebank ancestry to market outcomes, we observed a positive association between the ICRISAT genebank and market participation. We could not establish a robust effect on the quantity of groundnuts sold conditional on participation. We found the results to be driven by the area under improved groundnuts.
The ICRISAT genebank has provided accessions that confer useful traits to improved varieties of groundnut adopted by farmers in Malawi. Our analysis indicates that access to genetic resources from genebanks has resulted in the development of improved varieties with traits that are preferred by farmers such as higher yields and resistance to diseases. The adoption of these improved varieties led to increased production surplus and reduced transaction costs, allowing farmers to better participate in local groundnut markets. The study points to the crucial role of genebanks as important sources of crop diversity for improved food security and incomes of smallholder farmers.