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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Seed systems

Seed systems

Seed is essential to most peoples' livelihoods in agricultural communities, especially in the developing world. It holds the genetic potential of crops and their varieties which have been continuously improved and selected over time. The potential benefits to food security are enormous.

In addition, use of adapted varieties increases farmers’ income as their yields increase.

A sustainable seed system ensures that high quality seeds of improved varieties are produced and made fully available at the right time and at an affordable price to farmers.

However in Africa, for example, less than 20% of the land is planted with improved varieties. This is for a number of reasons the we are working to try and overcome.

We work to establish sustainable seed systems, ensuring that high quality, improved seeds are available. We work to make seed production, distribution and quality assurance systems more efficient, as well as looking at bottlenecks caused by seed policy which prevent farmers accessing good quality seed. 

Our work

Good seed is extremely important in Africa. Reliance on agriculture is greater and less than 20% of the land here is planted with improved varieties. Our Good Seed Initiative supports seed systems that are suited to a particular crop, location and variation.


Our Good Seed Initiative strategy gives you more information on seed systems and has been produced with support from IrishAid. 

For training materials and videos on individual projects please see their respective project pages (under the related projects tab below)

Seed systems videos

Sharing seed

Connecting and sharing

This video offers an insight into the innovation platform which brought different stakeholders together to improve how the seed system for African Indigenous Vegetables worked in Tanzania.

Quality declared seed video

Quality declared seed

This short video explains how farmers are using a quality declared seed system for African Indigenous Vegetables in Southern Tanzania.

AIV Demand

Demand for African Indigenous Vegetables

This video shows that African Indigenous Vegetables are growing in popularity in East Africa as they are highly nutritious!


Mariam Mseno

Mariam's story

Read about the experiences of Mariam Daudi Msemo, a mother of four living near Arusha in Tanzania. 

Several years ago, she had little money to pay for her family’s health care and school fees. Looking for ways to increase her income, she started agricultural training, learning how to grow African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) through the CABI-led Good Seed Initiative.

Farmer with a bunch of Amaranth harvested from her farm - ready for sale

African seed health case study

AIVs (African indigenous vegetables) have traditionally been a significant contributor to food security, nutrition and incomes for smallholder farmers in East Africa. However, lack of good quality seed has hampered farmers in meeting the growing demand. This case study shows how CABI tested three farmer-led seed production models in Kenya and Tanzania. We promoted access to good quality seeds and helped stakeholders develop the necessary skills to establish and manage seed production and marketing enterprises.

Improving access to quality seeds in Africa (PDF)

Read the CABI blog for all our posts about seed systems.