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Seed Sector Development

To promote seed sector development, KIT Institute supports agricultural programmes, public and private sector partners to improve the use of high quality seed by farmers. We focus on smallholder producers in Africa.

Our Approach

Access to high-quality seed increases farm productivity,  leads to higher returns on investments and allows farmers  to earn a better living. The use of quality seed is also indispensable for reaching global food security and reducing pressure on fragile ecosystems.  Unfortunately, many African smallholder farmers do not have access to good quality seed suitable for their farms.

Stimulating Africa-grown solutions

Conventional efforts to stimulate seed sector development typically mirror the approach of advanced seed systems from Europe and North America. But these have proven inadequate to foster meaningful improvements in seed systems across Africa. Other programmes use non-sustainable approaches such as free seed distribution and subsidies to seed producers. Meanwhile, seed production and retail systems remain poorly developed, and the economic incentives for seed producers to invest in seed production and marketing are not attractive enough to trigger transformative change. This contributes to the ongoing use of inferior quality seed.

Our approach to integrated seed sector development seeks to stimulate Africa-grown solutions for economically sustainable seed production, tailored to local contexts.

Our work is guided by eight principles:

  1. Foster pluralism and build programs on diversity of seed systems
  2. Work according to the structure of the seed value chain
  3. Promote entrepreneurship and market orientation
  4. Recognize the relevance of informal seed systems
  5. Facilitate interactions between informal and formal seed systems
  6. Recognize complementary roles of the public and private sector
  7. Support enabling and evolving policies for a dynamic sector
  8. Promote evidence-based seed sector innovation
Learn more bout the guiding principles at ISSD Africa

Integrated Seed Sector Development

KIT, in collaboration with the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation) has established two international communities of practice (ISSD and ISSD Africa), to facilitate seed sector innovation and development globally and on the African continent.

To improve the functioning of national seed sectors, we address interrelated problems simultaneously to improve access to high-quality seed. Our work seeks to transform all levels of the seed value chain, while maximising the benefits for smallholder farmers.

Smallholder farmers are not a homogenous group; they have diverse seed demands, depending on their economic situation and level of market integration. Developing different solutions for different seed users is therefore imperative and a variety of seed systems is needed to cater to the diverse needs of seed users. Wherever possible, we promote seed entrepreneurship because profit is a powerful driver of durable seed production, seed marketing and service provision in this sector.

We target national seed sectors with the capacity to innovate. This requires building stakeholder collaboration and learning from practice. This allows for continuous, evidence-driven improvement of seed sector policies and practice.

Global, national and local expertise in seed sector development

At the global level, KIT is a frontrunner in fostering learning about what works in seed sector development. An example is the ISSD Africa a community of practice, which is working to learn from seed sector development experiences across the African continent as a way of informing seed policy, programme and project design.

At national and local levels, we provide technical support to seed sector intervention programmes. KIT offers senior level advice on seed regulatory reform, policies, and programme implementation. An example of such services is our support for the PSSD Burundi project. In Mozambique, KIT has been supporting educational institutes from TVET to academic level to integrate current insights in seed sector development into their training and education. In addition, we offer specialised ad-hoc expertise in the design phase, implementation, mid-term evaluation, final evaluations and impact assessment of seed sector development projects and programmes

Working with smallholder farmers

For smallholder farmers, high-quality seed is a first requirement to make the transition from subsistence-oriented production to land, water and labour-efficient for-profit farming. To support this transition, we work primarily with a diversity of actors involved in smallholder farming:

  • Seed producers and traders who provide smallholder producers with access to high-quality seed of improved varieties.
  • Agricultural advisors and agricultural development project implementers
  • Policymakers, project and programme designers, decision-makers and agricultural researchers who are intervening in the seed sector. We help them to learn, communicate and apply what works in seed sector development.

Contact us

Do you have a question or want to know more? Contact us by sending an e-mail.

Featured projects and publications

  • Private Seed Sector Development Burundi

    • Institute
    • Project

    The Private Seed Sector Development (PSSD) project aims to double the production and incomes of 108,000 farmer households in Burundi. KIT is working with private and public sector partners to promote the development of a private sector-led seed industry that is able to provide farmers with sustainable access to high-quality seed and agricultural advisory services. […]

  • Affordable, Quality Seed Production and Utilization in the Zambezi Valley

    • Institute
    • Project

    Between 2015 and 2020, KIT co-led, together with the Zambezi Valley Development Agency (ADVZ) the NUFFIC-financed project ‘Integrated Seed Sector Development, Mozambique’. Educational & Seed Sector Development In Mozambique, Agricultural Education and Training Institutes (AETI) have traditionally focused on seed production as part of breeding and agronomic programmes, but without a dedicated seed sector development discipline. Gaps therefore exist in understanding the position of farming households […]

  • Access to Seed Index

    • Institute
    • Project

    KIT provides seed sector and seed systems knowledge to the Access to Seeds Index, which evaluates and compares seed companies according to their efforts to improve access to quality seeds of improved varieties for smallholder farmers. The Index seeks primarily to identify leadership and good practices, providing an evidence base for the discussion on where […]

  • Improving Access to Quality Feed & Forage Seed for the Dairy Sector in Kenya and Uganda

    • Institute
    • Project

    This project aims to develop viable business models for forage seed production and marketing that assure economically sustainable access to high-quality forage seed in Kenya and Uganda.   Gendered perceptions of livestock and agricultural production in Kenya: a new blog from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, our project partners. In East Africa, dairy farming has high potential as […]

  • Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa

    • Institute
    • Project

    The Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) aims to enhance access to quality seed by smallholder farmers. It integrates both formal and informal seed systems and fosters participation of both public and private actors in the development of demand-driven seed chains. As a result, this supports the ability of smallholder farmers to produce food sustainably and […]

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