Aid agencies aiming to increase food security in an emergency situation should try to support local seed markets in the region or country whenever possible, instead of bringing in seeds from abroad. This is the main finding of the expert consultation ´From seed aid to seed governance’ organized on 17 June 2014 by Cordaid and Wageningen University.
Seeds are crucially important for the productivity of farming systems. The type of varieties and the potential of the seeds may differ widely. Yet what is achieved with the seeds depends on the farming conditions and on farm management by the smallholder farmer.
In times of conflict or distress, women and men smallholders may have little or no seeds available for the next planting season. This is where seed aid comes in.
But even in conflict areas, a lack of food is not equivalent to lack of seeds, and a lack of seeds is also not equivalent to lack of food. Experts stressed the importance of assessing local seed systems and supporting the local seed markets whenever possible.
Participants discussed how this could take place in the hectic times of emergencies when also many non-seed experts are involved in decision-making, and when farmers are often not consulted.
No easy answers
The twenty experts taking part raised many questions. Who decides on the varieties? Is it wise to distribute these for free? How do you prevent farmers getting stuck with seeds that are not adapted to the agro-ecological conditions? How do you prevent unfair competition between aid and local seed distributors? How do we prepare and organize emergency support without disrupting agricultural systems already in place?
While there are no easy answers to the questions raised, Cordaid’s position is that we will strive for collaboration and implementation of projects and emergency aid with the different stakeholders we work with: governments, international institutions, knowledge institutes, farmer organizations, private sector, international and local NGOs, seed dealers, women and men groups.
Cordaid and seed aid
Cordaid wil continue its work on seed issues in smallholder farming, particularly in fragile areas. Seeds are central to life. Cordaid stands with its partner organizations to help smallholders have control over their production systems.
Simone Filippini opened the meeting together with Marcel Beukeboom of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seed experts of Wageningen University, University of East Anglia, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Participation was extended to organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Agri-ProFocus (APF), the Dutch seed industry network Plantum, and colleague NGOs such as ZOA, contributed.