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Seed Emergency Response Tool (SERT)

Download this new practical guide for humanitarian practitioners

Photo: Louise Sperling/SeedSystem

Emergencies often disrupt the lives of farming families and their agricultural production. Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable and deal with a range of shocks and stresses, including climate variability, conflict, and COVID-19. During emergencies, humanitarian practitioners need to intervene quickly to help restore the local farming system to its pre-disaster state or better, ensuring farmers can resume producing food and become more resilient – even in the short term.

Seed interventions are a particular focus of humanitarian aid as seed is relatively easy for farmers to use and can give quick returns. While good seed aid can bolster farming systems, poor seed aid can increase farmers’ vulnerability. For instance, seed that arrives too late or poorly adapted seed wastes farmers’ land and labor resources. Also, aid repeated over multiple seasons breeds farmer dependency and stifles the development of commercial seed enterprises.

The Seed Emergency Response Tool (SERT), developed by Mercy Corps and SeedSystem through ISSD Africa, is for policy makers, program managers, and field staff engaged in emergency and early recovery agricultural responses. It helps those new to this area of work, as well as those with experience, to make informed, quality decisions about the choice of a seed security intervention and how best to implement it. Effective seed security responses require strategic thinking and deliberate design actions. Clear goals must be set; choices among equally good interventions need to be mapped out; and the selection of appropriate responses must be geared to equitably meet the varied needs of men and women farmers. The SERT provides guidance on how best to tackle these tasks.

The SERT also synthesizes the growing body of good or better practices linked to seed security response. It is framed by a set of 10 core principles and accompanied by field-tested tools: decision trees for choosing a suitable intervention; checklists for evaluating responses; and reference materials for those seeking more technical detail.

We welcome feedback on the tool! Should you have comments or questions on the SERT, please contact:

A French version of the tool will be released shortly.

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