Seed Equal


Inadequate seed supply and delivery systems, sometimes also misaligned with user and market demand, mean that smallholders often recycle seed or use older varieties, leaving them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.  Small-scale farmers, especially women and other disadvantaged groups, are particularly vulnerable to climate-related challenges, such as more frequent and severe droughts and erratic rainfall. Additionally, farmers may not be well informed about varietal options available to them or may be reluctant to experiment with new varieties. These challenges threaten agricultural production and can compromise their ability to meet their own food, nutrition and income needs.  

Improved varieties, innovations and approaches developed and promoted by CGIAR and partners could transform agrifood 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, means these bottlenecks remain. 


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:

  • Supporting demand-driven cereal seed systems for more effective delivery of genetic gains from One CGIAR cereal breeding, as well as improving government, private sector and farmer-based capacity to deliver productive, resilient and preferred varieties to smallholders. 
  • Boosting legume seed through a demand-led approach that builds on growing demand for grain legumes. This multistakeholder approach will strengthen partnerships to provide efficient, more predictable and demand-led access to quality seed of new varieties. 
  • Scaling and delivering vegetatively propagated crop seed through sustainable enhanced delivery pathways that efficiently target different market segments and farmer preferences. 
  • Supporting partnerships (including with smallholders), capacity building and coordination to ensure uptake of public-bred varieties and other innovations by providing technical assistance for national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) and foundation seed organizations in early-generation seed production and on-farm demonstrations. 
  • Developing and implementing policies for varietal turnover, seed quality assurance and trade in seeds by leveraging global expertise and experience to generate both the evidence and engagement necessary to advance efficient, sustainable, and inclusive seed markets that promote varietal turnover and wider adoption. 
  • Scaling equitable access to quality seed and traits in order to reach the unreached and provide inclusive access while addressing gender and social constraints and the digital divide. 


    This Initiative will work in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania as a priority, followed by other countries in Latin America, South and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 


    Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

    1. Robust tools developed and used by funders, developers, researchers and extension staff to sustainably measure and monitor key seed system metrics. 
    2. Increase of 10% in the quantity of quality seed of improved “best-fit” and farmer-preferred varieties available to farmers in representative crops and geographies due to increased capacity of seed companies and other seed multipliers (including farm-based seed actors).  
    3. Public and private seed enterprises adopting innovative and transformative models for accessing, disseminating and multiplying quality early-generation seed, reducing cost and increasing output. 
    4. Reduction of 5% in weighted average varietal age for priority crops in selected countries.     
    5. Government partners in policy design and implementation actively promote policy solutions to accelerate varietal turnover, adoption and quality seed use. 


            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 sweet potato. 

            Seed systems can influence food security by improving the availability, access to 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 sweet potato. 

            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.


            Projected benefits are a way to illustrate reasonable orders of magnitude for impacts which could arise as a result of the impact pathways set out in the Initiative’s theories of change. In line with the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, Initiatives contribute to these impact pathways, along with other partners and stakeholders. CGIAR does not deliver impact alone. These projections therefore estimate plausible levels of impact to which CGIAR, with partners, contribute. They do not estimate CGIAR’s attributable share of the different impact pathways.


            Header photo: A customer buys maize seed produced by Suba Agro-Trading and Engineering Company at an agrovet shop in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo by Kipenz Films/CIMMYT



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