Linking Seed Security Constraints to Responses

SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 5

Sperling et al. (2008) look specifically at the types of aid given and their appropriateness in relation to our knowledge about what happens to seed systems in a crisis. The authors suggest a series of practical actions for matching the type of the response more closely to the actual problem. Several conclusions merit re-emphasis:

  • Direct seed distribution is unsuitable for many situations, including many in which it is currently being used.
  • More market-based approaches, including use of vouchers or cash coupled with fairs, have wider application.

These conclusions are supported by problem analysis and by evidence from the field that suggests that seed availability is rarely a prime constraint. The importance of informal seed/grain markets in underpinning seed security is also highlighted, particularly through analysis of farmers’ actual seed sources during crisis periods. Initiatives to actively support and strengthen such markets, during both normal and stress times, need to be tested and evaluated.

Beyond recommending that a wider range of options be used in emergency contexts, Sperling et al. highlight that seed aid in general might better be framed within a broad developmental context. Much of acute humanitarian response is delivery in what are chronically stressed contexts. More developmental-type seed aid (introducing new varieties, strengthening local seed quality) can address only a portion of the concerns. In many seed aid contexts, poverty eradication might better figure as the central goal of assistance. Finally, Sperling et al. suggest a move away from automatic “supplying seed aid by default.” More effective seed relief activities require proper seed-system security assessments and systematic evaluation. Even emergency responses, which require quick action, can be implemented in such a way that learning and progressive refining of responses are promoted.

Sperling, L., Cooper, H.D. & Remington, T. (2008). Moving towards more effective seed aid. Journal of Development Studies 44, no. 4, 586–612. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220380801980954.