From Market Demand to Breeding Decisions: A Framework

Developing plant varieties or animal breeds that meet the needs of all stakeholders is a tremendously challenging task. Each set of breeding customers, such as growers, product chain actors, and end-use consumers, may have specific needs for attributes of breeds or varieties. Eliciting, defining, communicating and incorporating these traits into breeding programs requires the focused interaction of different disciplines and stakeholder groups throughout the process.

In this paper we propose a framework to capture and respond to needs and demands to be addressed through breeding. The framework is split into four phases, three of which are developed in detail herein: developing product profiles from market demands; developing breeding priorities based on product profiles; and turning breeding priorities into breeding decisions.
We have drawn on a number of real-life examples and experiences that address each of the phases described in this paper, as well as on a broad survey of public and private sector breeding programs. We summarize lessons learned and suggest effective approaches and tools for implementation. Three of these key learnings are summarized below.

Any product attribute that is demanded or needed by the market, and which is not clearly identified and considered throughout the breeding process will remain wishful thinking and never be delivered on, unless by chance. The decisions made by breeding programs as to which attributes to target must include gender-related traits in order for plant and animal breeding to become gender-responsive.

Similarly, any poorly-understood, unrealistic or unfeasible trait that is in demand or needed, must be addressed and discussed, and the inability to deliver on it communicated back to stakeholders. Such feedback mechanisms from breeding programs to markets – or their representatives – are essential to ensure an alignment between expectations and deliverables, and potentially identify alternatives when breeding cannot deliver. Any demands, including gender-specific ones, must be realistic, well documented and agreed upon in order for a breeding program to be successful.

Finally, the objectives and priorities of a breeding program must be defined in a way that ensures delivery of significant (measurable, visible) value to its stakeholders. Gains achieved through breeding need to be large enough to drive adoption of new breeds or varieties. This is particularly important for traits that are difficult to quantify and for which small gains, though real, might have little perceived value. For breeding programs to contribute towards improved livelihoods and well-being for both men and women, they must deliver new breeds or varieties that are significantly improved for important gender-specific attributes.