Seed Equal


Smallholder farmers, especially women and disadvantaged groups, are particularly vulnerable to climate-related challenges such as more frequent and severe droughts and erratic rainfall. These challenges threaten agricultural production and can compromise their ability to meet their own food, nutrition and income needs. In addition, inadequate seed supply and delivery systems misaligned with user and market demand mean that smallholders often recycle seed or use older seed varieties, which leaves them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

With increasing population and climate pressure, inclusive and climate-smart intensification of food production is urgently needed to achieve global goals for food security, nutrition, poverty, gender, climate and environment. Improved varieties, innovations and approaches developed and promoted by CGIAR and partners have the potential to transform agri-food systems and reduce yield gaps, “hunger months,” and other disparities. However, limited access to and use of affordable, quality seed of well adapted varieties with desired traits remains a bottleneck.


This Initiative aims to support the delivery of seed of improved climate-resilient, market-preferred and nutritious varieties of priority crops, embodying a high rate of genetic gain to farmers, ensuring equitable access for women and other disadvantaged groups.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Demand-driven cereal seed systems: Supporting more effective delivery of genetic gains from One CGIAR cereal breeding, as well as government, private sector and NGO capacity to deliver productive, resilient and preferred varieties to smallholders.
  • Boosting legume seed through a demand-led seed approach: Building on growing demand for grain legume through a multi-stakeholder approach that strengthens partnerships to have efficient, more predictable and demand-led access to new varieties.
  • Scaling and delivery of vegetatively propagated crop seed: Sustainable delivery of seed at scale through enhanced seed delivery pathway efficiency and effective targeting for different market segments and farmer preferences.
  • Partnerships, capacity building and coordination to ensure uptake of public-bred varieties and other innovations: Technical assistance for national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) and foundation seed organizations in early generation seed production and on-farm demonstrations.
  • Policies for varietal turnover, seed quality assurance and trade in seeds: Leveraging global expertise and experience to generate both the evidence and engagement necessary to advance efficient, sustainable, and inclusive seed markets.


This Initiative will work in several countries globally.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Seed companies and other seed multipliers provide quality seed of new improved varieties from CGIAR and NARES networks at greater scale, tailored to their needs and reaching 30 million beneficiaries (minimum 30% women).
  2. Five foundation seed providers adopt innovative and transformative models for accessing, multiplying and disseminating quality early generation seed for the full range of target focus crops in prioritized market segments following economically sustainable business models and supplying NARES, seed companies, farmer and community organizations, and rural entrepreneurs.
  3. Robust seed policy implementation in three countries leading to: a significant quantitative increase in early generation seed production and distribution relative to baseline values; qualitative reductions in time and effort required to release new varieties and produce quality seed; a significant quantitative increase in regional seed market values relative to baseline values; and qualitative improvements in reach and impact of instruments to accelerate varietal turnover and increase seed demand.
  4. Twenty priority NARES and other seed sector partners using new metrics and digital tools for evaluating, promoting and tracking variety adoption, initiating the creation of a robust evidence base.


Projected impacts and benefits include:


More than 42.6 million people (9 million households) are projected to benefit from higher-yielding rice and wheat, and stress-tolerant maize.

Increasing access to, and use of, quality seed of market-demanded, climate-resilient, high-yielding varieties will help stabilize or enhance yields and consequently incomes.


More than 23.1 million people (4.7 million households) are projected to benefit from higher-yielding vitamin A-rich cassava and orange-flesh sweetpotato.

Seed systems can influence food security by improving the availability, access and use of improved varieties that increase productivity and resilience of food crops, in turn increasing availability of nutritious food at lower prices. Improved incomes attained through higher yields from better quality varieties enable farming families to spend additional income on food and expand dietary diversity. Nutritional deficiencies can also be addressed through production and consumption of biofortified staple crops.


More than 2.5 million women producers (and 3.4 million women and girls in adopting households) are projected to benefit from high-yield fast cooking beans and orange-flesh sweetpotato.

Developing viable business models for seed entrepreneurship targeting women and youth and their collectives will contribute to the creation of new jobs in seed value chains and expand livelihood options, increase incomes, and contribute to poverty reduction.


More than 69.9 million people (14.7 million households) are projected to benefit from stress-tolerant maize.

The Initiative will prioritize product advancement of climate-resilient varieties developed by CGIAR’s Accelerated Breeding Initiative, advancing policy options to accelerate adoption, turnover and demand. These varieties will be adapted to variable seasonal durations and conditions such as drought, heat, salinity and submergence, and waterlogging.


70,000 additional genetic accessions are expected to become available (an increase of 15%).

High-quality and high-yielding seeds allow for increased production without increased pressure on land, including forests, carbon sinks, buffer zones and centers of biodiversity. This Initiative will improve availability, accessibility and affordability of a wider range of varieties that enable gains for environmental health and biodiversity to be realized, for example, by reducing dependence on chemical inputs while enhancing soil microbiota.


For more details, view the Initiative proposal


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.