Toolkit: Supporting smallholder seed systems


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Tools and Guidelines, Knowledge note

Toolkit: Supporting smallholder seed systems

Agriculture begins with seed. Without seed, there can be no crops and no food production. When harvests fail or seed stocks are lost, seed insecurity ensues, which can reduce food security and livelihoods.

In most smallholder farming systems farmers save seed from the previous harvest to plant in the next season. They select seed from the best plants and then dry, clean and store the seed in a safe place. These traditional seed-saving practices and farmers’ sharing of seed are called the informal seed system, or the farmer/community-based seed system. They also add to their crop diversity with seed they obtain from social networks or purchase in local markets, from agro-dealers or seed companies. 

Complimenting this informal seed system is the formal seed system, which is made up of public and private seed companies that develop high-quality seed of new crop varieties.

The challenge for seed sector development, as elaborated in this toolkit, is how to address both the informal and formal seed systems so that farmers have access to a sustainable supply of quality seed of improved crop varieties which is affordable, meets their needs (for food, feed and markets), is well adapted to the local agroecologies and adapted to climate change.


Wafaa El Khoury, Robert Delve