In many developing countries, limited availability of and access to quality seed and propagation material for well-adapted crop varieties hinders efforts to transform food systems. The dissemination of quality seed with characteristics preferred by farmers and consumers is a critical mechanism for delivering on CGIAR’s five Impact Areas and on Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger) by 2030.
The success of CGIAR-NARS (national agricultural research systems) breeding programs relies largely on efforts to strengthen the links between breeding and the delivery of quality seed for climate-adapted and nutritionally enriched varieties to smallholder farmers in stress-prone and low-technology adoption environments. This technology transfer relies on functioning and equitable seed systems operating in an enabling policy environment that incentivizes the replacement of old varieties with new ones and integrates formal and informal seed systems. While new investments in seed systems provide opportunities to increase the benefits of seed access and use for women and other unreached groups, more effort is needed to address constraints that limit their rights, choices, and capabilities.
This Initiative aims to accelerate varietal turnover, quality seed use, and the realization of genetic gains in farmers’ fields (2% per year) through a concerted effort to strengthen national seed systems in focal countries and regions.
This will be achieved by:
- Modernization of CGIAR’s role in seed system development, particularly seed delivery, driven by a renewed and clarified comparative advantage of CGIAR with respect to NARS and other partners in national innovation systems.
- Reducing the average varietal age through incorporation of gold standard methods of stage-gating in product advancement and variety portfolio management.
- Ensuring that breeding innovations reach the most disadvantaged. Additional significant benefits will accrue to women by increasing their access to and use of quality seeds, and also by engaging them in seed production and distribution roles. A range of evidence-based innovative mechanisms and instruments will be leveraged to “reach the unreached” at scale.
Proposed 3-year outcomes include:
- Seed companies and other seed multipliers access and use quality seed of new varieties tailored to their needs from CGIAR-NARS networks at greater scale, ensuring that women and other disadvantaged groups are reached.
- Seed enterprises including national agricultural research organizations adopt innovative and transformative models for accessing, multiplying, and disseminating quality starter material for seed production for the full range of target focus crops in prioritized market segments following economically sustainable business models.
- Robust policy implementation in 5–10 countries, leading to: a 50% increase in early generation seed production/distribution; qualitative reductions in the time and effort required to release new varieties and produce quality seed; a 5–10% increase in regional seed market values; and qualitative improvements in the reach and impact of instruments to accelerate varietal turnover and increase seed demand.
- Key private and public seed agencies and development organizations use metrics developed by the Initiative for tracking inclusive seed access, generating a robust evidence base. Key national seed innovation partner organizations modify or introduce new seed information sharing and delivery mechanisms to enhance inclusive access to seed.
|POVERTY REDUCTION, LIVELIHOODS & JOBS
Increased adoption of resilient higher-yielding market-preferred varieties, and faster turnover of varieties, increase on-farm productivity and competitiveness and improve farmer incomes. Contract seed production of hybrid cereal and vegetable varieties by smallholder farmers creates employment for women and youth in rural communities.
|NUTRITION, HEALTH & FOOD SECURITY
Increased varietal turnover provides resilient, nutrient-dense legumes, biofortified crops, and vegetables. Distribution of diverse high-quality crop varieties with market-relevant traits mitigates micronutrient malnutrition and supports NARS partners and farmers to improve crop, diet, and nutrient diversity, and combat food insecurity.
|GENDER EQUALITY, YOUTH & SOCIAL INCLUSION
An increase in the use of affordable seed of market-demanded, consumer-preferred, and resilient varieties by women, youth, and disadvantaged social groups contributes to reducing gender bias and yield gaps. Empowerment through training in quality seed production, meeting standards, and complying with regulations opens up opportunities for future entrepreneurship.
|CLIMATE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION
Seed systems that promote increased varietal turnover help farmers adapt to a changing climate. Productive climate-resilient varieties with traits for heat, flood, and drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance provide yield stability, reduce pressure on marginal land, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
|ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & BIODIVERSITY
Increased adoption of high-yielding, climate-resilient varieties with pest and disease resistance reduces the use of pesticides. Diversification of crops, including vegetables and traditional vegetables, increases agro-biodiversity. Early-maturing varieties in zero-till crop rotations improve soil health and sequester carbon.
Header photo: Elizabeth Omusiele shows the diverse seeds she is growing on her farm with support from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and partners. Photo by G.Smith/Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.