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Seed System Assessments in BHA Programs

Challenges and Opportunities for Enhancing Uptake

By: Abby Love, Senior Specialist – Program Quality & Capacity Strengthening, Mercy Corps; Nadia Pinter, Economic Development Intern, Mercy Corps; and Wilfred Ouko, ISSD Program Advisor, Mercy Corps

Photo Credit:Ezra Millstein, Mercy Corps Uganda

Shocks and stresses such as pest infestations, droughts, and conflict impact food and seed security for vulnerable populations around the world. In response, humanitarian actors often focus response activities on seed-related interventions to support agricultural livelihoods. However, these interventions are frequently implemented without the use of seed system assessments, which are critical to inform appropriate seed interventions.

Seed System Security Assessments (SSSAs/SSAs) are one type of assessment that are often requested and/or expected by donors such as USAID; however, uptake and usage varies greatly. In March 2021, the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)-funded SCALE Award hosted two implementing partner (IP) consultations that included both headquarter (HQ)-based technical advisors and program implementers to better understand why this is the case and what can be done to improve SSSA adoption moving forward. Following these consultations, SCALE led a debrief meeting with BHA staff, who contributed further reflections on the ways they have seen applications, assessments, and implementation fall short of meeting minimum standards when it comes to the use of seed systems assessments, and the steps that could be taken to strengthen these activities.

The summary of the consultations, debrief calls and key takeaways is available on the FSN Network here.

Application Gaps

Following discussions with BHA staff, a number of gaps and shortfalls emerged related to SSSA use at the BHA application phase. These include points such as:

Implementation Gaps

Reflections from implementing partners highlighted some of the reasons behind the above gaps. Their full reflections are captured here. A few highlights from both consultations include:

Photo Credit: Ezra Millstein, Mercy Corps Myanmar 

Analysis and recommendations

Based on the insights shared by BHA and the feedback gathered from the IPs, a few key areas emerged when it comes to addressing barriers to SSSA uptake.

For the full analysis and recommendations, please visit the FSN Network here.

How can you get involved? SCALE thanks all implementing partners and BHA staff who contributed to these consultations and discussions. SCALE will continue exploring ways to support implementing partners to better navigate and utilize SSSA tools and guidance. If you would like to stay engaged on seed-related topics, email and sign up for the FSN newsletter to stay informed of future seed-related events and resources.

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