Farmers' perceptions and willingness to pay for healthy tomato seedlings in Lake Victoria crescent agro-ecological zone, Uganda
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Tomato growing is economically important among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Uganda in particular. Planting tomato is either by direct seeding or using previously raised seedlings. However, tomato production is constrained by many factors including erratic weather changes, pests, and diseases. Critical still, is the use of poor-quality seedlings that develop into weak, stunted, or diseased plants, consequently reducing production. Healthy seedlings which are vigorous, disease-free planting materials raised in a sterilized growing medium, present an opportunity to circumvent seedling production challenges, reduce seed wastage and input costs. To establish farmers’ willingness to pay for healthy seedlings, the study sought to i) assess farmers’ perceptions of healthy seedlings in tomato production ii) to determine the price farmers were willing to pay for healthy tomato seedlings and iii) to determine factors influencing farmers’ willingness to pay for healthy tomato seedlings. The study used cross-sectional primary data from186 randomly selected tomato farmers from the districts of Jinja, Luwero and Mukono found in the Lake Victoria Crescent agro-ecological zone. Willingness to pay was determined using the Dichotomous choice Contingent Valuation method and the factors that influence willingness to pay were analyzed using a Logit model. Health-related characteristics of tomato seedlings observed by farmers were wilting, leaf perforations, low vigour, and root knots. The mean willingness to pay price of the farmers interviewed was UGX 189. Farmers who were willing to pay for healthy seedlings had higher productivity, were aware of improved varieties, and preferred to use early maturing, high yielding seed with improved pest and disease resistance. Female farmers, those who sourced seed from informal sources, and those who applied lower quantities of fertilizers during tomato growing were willing to pay for healthy seedlings. Therefore, the success, uptake, and sustainability of this technology will highly depend on targeted campaigns to improve farmers’ awareness of healthy seedlings.