Improving responses to seed insecurity

Key challenge

Because of need for speed, donor interventions in emergency situations often target the wrong part of the system, may ignore local contexts, and may not be coordinated with others’ efforts. In addition, hasty intervention may damage the long-term development of robust seed systems and impede market development. As an example, direct seed distribution is common practice that may alleviate a crisis in the short-term, but weaken the performance of emerging industry in the long-term through flooding the market with cheap or free seed.

To avoid these pitfalls, donors and emergency responders need to be able to quickly and effectively evaluate the context then develop appropriate responses that are timely, targeted, coordinated and that build upon and improve existing seed systems. Further, these should set the stage for long term resilience once the situation has stabilized. This is especially critical in shock-prone areas where needs switch frequently between emergency interventions and development interventions. In these locations, emergency interventions need to be linked to and support development goals.

Action learning questions

How can we improve the effectiveness of emergency seed interventions by:

  • Quickly assessing the context and target areas for intervention?
  • Identifying efficient emergency seed responses for different shocks?
  • Coordinating with government, market actors and other donors in emergency situations?
  • Ensuring that emergency seed interventions target the most vulnerable and respond to their needs?

How can emergency interventions create more resilient seed systems in the long-term by:

  • Knowing what market distortions are caused by emergency interventions?
  • Making more effective use of development AND market principles in emergency responses?
  • Better preparing seed actors to face emergency shocks and ensuing market disruptions?
  • Ensuring that the most vulnerable populations do not suffer disproportionately?

Activities and outcomes

This action learning project proposes to examine donor responses in situations of seed insecurity and aims to develop tools to allow donors to 1) quickly assess the context and prioritize their interventions in a timely, coordinated and effective manner, and 2) ensure that their interventions minimally disrupt current market systems and actors, and that they increase overall resilience of the system and ability to bounce back from future shocks.

At the end of this set of action learning activities, in the wake of an emergency, key donors and international actors will be able to quickly and effectively target, in coordination with other stakeholders, priority interventions that are appropriate to the environment or context and which minimize overall disruption to the system. Their interventions will alleviate the short-term impact of the shock, as well as contributing to increasing the overall resilience of the seed system.