Seed Sector Development

To promote seed sector development, KIT Royal Tropical 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

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.
  • Our Services

    Policy & Programme Design

    KIT Royal Tropical Institute operates at the intersection of theory and practice and between policy and implementation, translating good intentions into meaningful social and economic impact.

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    Applied research

    KIT Royal Tropical Institute addresses development challenges at local, regional and global levels through research that generates new insights and knowledge in our areas of expertise: health, sustainable economic development and gender.

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    Knowledge Management

    Development and research organisations are often so focused on achieving their objectives that they find it difficult to create the time to look back, analyse and learn from what they experienced and share their results.

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    International knowledge networks and platforms

    In an increasingly globalised and complex world, international learning, communication and collaboration around global development challenges are major avenues for realising impact. Rapid developments in Information & Communication Technology are opening new opportunities for international networking and learning.

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    Monitoring, Evaluation & Impact Assessment

    Monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment are powerful tools to assess health, social, and economic impact. They allow us to learn what works and why. Our expertise and track record in these areas make us well-equipped to evaluate your work. 

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    Education, training and coaching

    There is probably no better contribution towards sustainable development than investing in people and building capacities at all levels. KIT Royal Tropical Institute plays a major role in this by offering a range of education and capacity building services, from formal education at masters level to client-oriented training and coaching support. Our training and coaching programmes are tailor-made to address the unique objectives and capacities of the requesting organisation.

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    Our Experts

    Photo of Peter Gildemacher

    Peter Gildemacher

    Head of Sustainable Economic Development & Gender

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