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Understanding the Need for a Seed Emergency Response Toolkit

ISSD Africa partners are working to develop a toolkit enable implementers and donors to quickly assess seed systems in the wake of disasters and target the appropriate area and method of intervention

By: Wilfred Ouko, ISSD Program Advisor, Mercy Corps & Abby Love, Senior Specialist – Program Quality & Capacity Strengthening, Mercy Corps

Agricultural production systems, particularly the seed sector, are often interrupted during periods of emergency–as a result of natural or man-made shocks or stresses–and may be rendered dysfunctional. The seed sector is particularly vulnerable to shocks, with emergencies threatening and compromising the overall resilience of the seed system.

In such situations, it is imperative for responders to quickly deliver the appropriate seed intervention, intervening at the most effective and efficient point in the seed system. Because of the challenging emergency contexts and the need for speed, it can be difficult for implementers to adequately assess the local context and needs to determine the most appropriate seed-related response. This can result in seed interventions that target a less impactful part of the system, or damage the long-term development of the local seed system while distorting the seed market.

To avoid these pitfalls, the Mercy Corps-led ISSD Africa Action Learning Topic, Effective Seed Insecurity Response, is developing a Seed Emergency Response Toolkit (SERT), including decision trees with response options linked to elements of the seed security framework (i.e. access, availability and quality.) The toolkit will contain decision trees aligning to different emergency contexts, accompanied by practical tools such as checklists, survey tools, and key informant interview questionnaires for implementers to use as they move along the decision tree towards the appropriate intervention option.

A few decision tree tools already exist, such as When Disaster Strikes by CIAT and CRS (see page 50-52) or Guidance for Emergency Seed Interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Global Food Security Cluster (see page 4.) The SERT builds on those by providing the practical tools to help implementers understand the different seed insecurity scenarios as well as how to navigate between scenarios (e.g. at what point the implementer decides to shift focus from a seed availability scenario to a seed access scenario.) These tools will enable implementers and donors to quickly assess seed systems in the wake of disasters and target the appropriate area and method of intervention.

How can you get involved?
As we continue developing the SERT decision trees and collate practical tools, we will need feedback and/or pilot testers at various review points. If you have expertise in emergency response and are interested in learning more, please contact Wilfred Ouko at: wouko [at]

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