Seed System is a collaboration among diverse national and international organizations aiming to improve seed security in high stress and vulnerable areas across the world.
About This Website
This website is dedicated to strengthening smallholder farmers’ seed systems. SeedSystem.org is for practitioners, researchers, managers, policy-makers and donors working in humanitarian relief and agricultural development. Let us move forward as a Community of Practice that promotes seed system security and puts the needs of women and men farmers fully front and center. This site shares resources (tried-and-tested technical guidance!) and has three main aims:
- to improve intervention practice;
- to improve assessment;
- to improve strategic thinking around seed system response and seed system development.
During periods of disaster–whether drought, flood, earthquakes, political instability, civil strife or displacement—seed system responses need to take place quickly. Good interventions can bolster vulnerable seed systems in sustainable ways; poor interventions do real harm—compromise farmers’ food security and create dependencies. SeedSystem.org offers practical ‘how- to’ advice to guide immediate humanitarian response. It starts step-by-step with the assessment—the seed system security assessment (SSSA)—and then moves to key responses—bolstering markets, promoting resilience and putting farmers in the decision-making chair.
Chronic Stress and Seed System Development
SeedSystem.org focuses equally on interventions for chronic stress regions, areas that are environmentally harsh and/or lacking development institutions and innovations. Tools and approaches seek to spur plant breeding, seed production and delivery, and agro-enterprise responses that serve diverse types of farmers. One size rarely fits all and poor, vulnerable farmers deserve interventions tailored to their needs—really practical and sustainable solutions. We welcome you to this site. Make liberal use of the practice briefs, system assessment tools, diagnostic manuals, background reviews, and policy guides. Most of all, comment, share, give feedback. Let us work together to make seed system interventions more effective!
The Alliance of Bioversity International and International Center for Tropical Agriculture
The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture delivers research-based solutions that address the global crises of malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. A member of the CGIAR Consortium, the Alliance focuses on the nexus of agriculture, nutrition and environment. We work with local, national, and multinational partners across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and with public and private sectors, as well as civil society. With novel partnerships, the Alliance generates evidence and mainstream innovations to transform food systems and landscapes so that they sustain the planet, drive prosperity, and nourish people.
Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance – PABRA
The Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), established in 1996, aims to improve food security, income and health of smallholder farmers and urban dwellers across Africa through bean research. Facilitated by the Alliance, , PABRA works in partnership with more than 600 partners and members across 31 countries to strengthen national bean programs, and develop and disseminate new bean technologies. As a result of these collective efforts, improved bean varieties and production practices have reached over 19.5 million rural households. We also believe that by increasing the competitiveness of bean markets, we can provide consumers with better products and contribute to the economic growth of our member countries. Moreover, the Alliance has helped a number of African nations bounce back from conflict and high stress situations. For instance, Rwanda has transformed climbing beans from a subsistence crop into a cash crop, and is now a net bean exporter. In Ethiopia, the average yield nearly doubled, from 0.86 tons per ha to 1.49 tons per ha between 2004 and 2014. South Sudan is the 29th country to join the PABRA alliance (in 2013). www.pabra-africa.org
Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was founded in 1943 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist the poor and disadvantaged overseas. CRS’ mission statement calls the agency to alleviate human suffering, advance full human development, and foster charity and justice in the world. While CRS seeks to capitalize on its strategic advantages as a faith based organization, all of its programs assist persons on the basis of need, regardless of creed, ethnicity or nationality. CRS is one of the world’s largest private voluntary organizations, supporting relief and development work in more than 100 countries and territories worldwide. Because much of its work is focused on the rural poor, agriculture is a key priority. CRS implements agriculture programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. CRS focuses on smallholder farmers and collaborates with farmers through participatory methods, building upon and improving current practices, and developing sustainable agricultural strategies accordingly. CRS programs impact entire farming systems, seeking diversity for stability of production and income, integration with household nutrition, gender, and other socio-economic factors. CRS is a leader in the PVO community in regards to seed systems in both relief and development situations. Our publications on this topic can be found both on this SeedSystem website and on our home website at crs.org (About Us/Publications).
Louise Sperling is a Senior Technical Advisor with Catholic Relief Services leading a program focused on strengthening vulnerable populations. She has managed and technically backstopped projects and programs in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Her focus is on impact-oriented plant breeding, formal and informal seed systems and pro-poor delivery approaches—with all programs embracing values of gender equity and farmer empowerment. In terms of seed systems, per se, Sperling’s work encompasses ‘normal’ small farmer systems as well as high stress ones: as examples, she led assessment missions during the pivotal 1983-85 drought in East Africa, after the 1994 Rwandan civil war and genocide, and immediately post-earthquake in Haiti. Widely consulting for a range of agencies (USAID/OFDA, the UN system, the World Bank, Rockefeller, northern and southern NGOs), she is the author of over seventy articles and book chapters, inter alia: Making seed systems more resilient (Global Environmental Change 2013, McGuire and Sperling) Understanding and strengthening informal seed markets (Experimental Agriculture 2010: Sperling and McGuire); Moving towards more effective seed aid (Journal of Development Studies 2008, Sperling, Cooper and Remington) and When Disaster Strikes: A guide to assessing seed system security (CIAT: 2008).
Jean Claude Rubyogo is seed systems specialist in PABRA/ CIAT supporting bean seed system development and the transfer of complementary technologies toward smallholder farmers. Since 2004, he has facilitated multiple seed programs in east, west, southern and central Africa contributing to durable partnerships among CIAT, national agricultural research systems (NARS), seed entrepreneurs, farmers’ organizations and development partners. This partnership model has also attracted progressively greater private investment in bean seed systems, creating novel business opportunities as well as employment. Jean Claude also currently coordinates the legume seed system research and development component of Tropical Legumes II (a Bill and Melinda Gates – supported project) covering four legumes crops (beans, chickpea, cowpea, groundnut,) in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India. He has extensively published on seed systems, for example, J.C. Rubyogo et al. 2010, Bean seed delivery for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa: the power of partnerships (Society and Natural Resources, 23 (4):1-18.)
Shawn McGuire is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Development, at the University of East Anglia (UK). His work supports innovation in crop breeding and seed supply which helps link farmers and formal research, builds resilience to stress, and which delivers benefits to small farmers. For over 15 years and in a number of countries, his research on seed systems has combined both natural and social science, and sought to inform development policy and practice. Support for this work has come from scientific research councils, development donors, and NGOs, addressing plant breeding, conservation, and seed system development. Along with Sperling, he has helped develop the Seed System Security Assessment (SSSA) and co-led assessment missions in a range of countries (e.g. Ethiopia, DRC, Haiti) to inform both short- and long-term policy. Other work focuses on capacity development in Kenyan crop breeding, and on informal seed networks. He has written over 25 articles or book chapters: including: Making seed systems more resilient (Global Environmental Change 2013, McGuire and Sperling), Fatal Gaps in Seed Security Strategy (Food Security, 2012, Sperling and McGuire) and “Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation: a review” (Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Pautasso et al., 2012).
The United States Agency for International Development
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent government agency that provides economic, development, and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. Within USAID, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) is responsible for leading and coordinating the U.S. Government’s response to disasters overseas. It harnesses the expertise and unique capacities of other US government entities to effectively respond to natural disasters and complex crises around the world.
BHA takes a holistic look at humanitarian aid, providing assistance before, during and after a crisis—from readiness and response, to relief and recovery. This includes non-emergency programming that is foundational to linking humanitarian assistance to long-term development and the journey to self-reliance. www.usaid.gov; https://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/bureaus/bureau-humanitarian-assistance
Julie March is the Agriculture and Food Security Technical Advisor for the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance. With a long term focus on ecology, ecological systems and farming systems, she has technically supported the integration of this kind of systems thinking into disaster response, recovery and resilience programs. Encouraging international disaster programs to move beyond early forms of seed assistance and enhancing the forms of tools and assessments used to ensure that no harm is done and that interventions contribute to sustainable systems where possible are a highlight of her role at USAID/OFDA.