Decentralized participatory bean breeding in southern Ethiopia
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In order to utilize farmers' knowledge on the crop and the environment, and to fit the crop to the specific needs and uses of farmers' communities, a four cycle decentralized participatory bean breeding was conducted in two locations in Sidama zone of the southern Nations, Nationalities and People Region. Forty four farmers selectors representing the community evaluated and then selected bean lines on-stations, the initial diverse germplasm pool of 147 lines at first selection cycle. In the following three cropping seasons, the farmers evaluated their selected lines on their farms and retained promising lines at the end of each selection cycle according to their own selection criteria. Their selections were evaluated by neighboring non-selector farmers (farmer-evaluators) using selection criteria set by farmer selectors. Group selection by selector farmers was attempted at cycle-4 on all individually selected lines grown on communal plots. The farmers effectively evaluated and selected bean lines that gave increased yield on their farm and met their specific preferences among large number of advanced lines. The farmers retained more large seeded beans as compared to small and medium seeded beans indicating that there is a shift in preference to large seeded beans in the region from their previously well-acquainted small red seed type. Bean lines selected by farmer following decentralized individual selection were farmer-specific except certain lines selected in common by some farmers. This lack of common selection to all farmers implies farmers' diverse preference for bean germplasm. In the selection process the farmers used growth habit, plant height, pod load, pod length, pod clearance from the base, early maturity, seed color, seed size and seed yield as selection criteria to retain or reject the bean lines. Seed color and seed yield were their decision making criteria whereas the rest were descriptor criteria to select good cultivars. The selection process indicated that farmers were capable of making significant contribution in identification of cultivars acceptable to them within a relatively short period. Moreover, the result suggests that conducting decentralized participatory individual selection and then participatory group selection with all farmer-selectors on all individually selection lines grown on communal plot and evaluating the final selection with evaluator farmers (non-selectors) against their communal plot and evaluating the final selection with evaluator farmers (non-selectors) against their selection criteria can improve variety development and increase the chance of adoption of new varieties by other farmers in a community.