Mercy Corps is working with partners on a tool to help implementers understand the characteristics of seed systems and the interface between conflicts and seed systems in fragile states

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

Seed systems in fragile states differ from seed systems in more stable environments and offer unique opportunities and challenges. In order to effectively intervene in fragile states, humanitarian agencies, donors and other stakeholders need to understand these differences, as well as understand how to address them with context-appropriate interventions.

The Mercy Corps-led ISSD Africa Action Learning Topic, Developing the Seed Sector in Fragile States, aims to deepen understanding of seed systems challenges and opportunities in fragile states. To support this work, Mercy Corps – together with seed experts and implementers from multiple humanitarian organizations – is developing a context analysis tool (CAT) to help humanitarian agencies, donors and other stakeholders quickly grasp the environment in which seed systems function and identify practical seed intervention entry points in fragile states.

The tool is designed to help implementers understand the characteristics of seed systems and the interface between conflicts and seed systems in fragile states by tackling questions including:

  • What are the challenges and opportunities seed systems face in fragile states?
  • What elements of a seed system are most robust in fragile states and which are disproportionately affected?
  • How can we support peacebuilding efforts through improving seed systems programming in fragile states?

The results of the analysis will help stakeholders understand 1) how conflict dynamics impact seed systems and 2) how to prioritize seed interventions to jointly and effectively improve seed systems functioning and peacebuilding efforts.

The tool will be tested, reviewed, adapted, and subsequently published and shared with key organizations involved in seed-related interventions in fragile states.

Draft Methodology
The context analysis tool is envisaged to be administered through six steps (see Figure 1),  with each step having a set of specific questions for understanding the context in which seed systems function. This is a draft methodology, which will be adjusted through reviewing and testing the process.

  • Step 1: seeks to understand the status of seed systems under the current situation
  • Step 2: lists and prioritises the main conflicts
  • Step 3: assesses the interface between seed systems and the main conflicts prioritised
  • Step 4: determines whether a seed intervention is the right approach within the conflict circumstances
  • Step 5: proposes ways of jointly addressing the conflicts and improving seed systems.
  • Step 6: reviews steps 1-5 and creates an action plan that ensures whatever remedial measures adopted to improve both the conflict and seed systems are implemented through a Do No Harm lens.

Figure 1: Draft Context Analysis Tool methodology

Seeking Feedback
This Action Learning team is actively seeking feedback on the draft context analysis tool and methodology. If you have expertise in fragile contexts and are interested in learning more and sharing your expertise, please contact Wilfred Ouko at: wouko [at]