Access to seeds: From emergencies to seed system development

Access to seeds: From emergencies to seed system development

A variety of maize ears.

The primary objective of ACCESS is to generate research-based knowledge and innovations for seed security for humanitarian and long-term agricultural development in Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.



Seeds are entangled in the ecological, social, cultural and economic fabric of rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa. Seeds underpin food security and play a fundamental role in efforts to make food systems more sustainable. At the same time, seeds are 'big business' in economic terms. Tension between the social and economic aspects of seed is the reason for many 'seed struggles' around the world. Behind the controversies over ownership and breeding technologies, what is it that actually determines farmers’ and food systems’ 'seed security'?


The primary objective is addressed through four secondary objectives: 

  1. Understanding seed use from large national livelihood data sets
  2. Understanding farmers’ seed access and preferences through micro-level livelihood studies and choice experiments.
  3. Understanding the political economy, legal frame conditions for farmers’ access to seed as well as business development and job-creation opportunities in seed systems development.
  4. Co-production of seed system innovation for seed security
More about the project

ACCESS takes a transdisciplinary approach. The project is carried out by an international and multidisciplinary research group with researchers from crop science, economics, political science, development studies and law and engages with seed system actors to co-produce institutional innovations.

Understanding seed use

The diversity of crop species and varieties is the biological basis for our food systems. For this diversity to contribute to food security, it must be accessible to those growing the food – farmers must be seed secure. This project (ACCESS) seeks to understand and strengthen farmers’ access to preferred and well-adapted crop varieties.

Instead of starting from a standpoint of assumptions on what types of seeds are best, ACCESS puts farmers’ livelihoods and preferences at the centre of the analysis. The project will generate research-based knowledge and innovations for seed security as well as humanitarian and agricultural development in three African countries: Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The project team will use a combination of nationally representative survey analyses, individual household (micro-level) studies and choice experiments to understand how seed is used and the preferences of farmers regarding seeds. 

The quantitative analysis will be contextualized by research on the political economy and legal frameworks that affect farmers regarding their access to seed. Business development and job creation opportunities related to seed system development will also be analysed. 

Seed system innovation

ACCESS will yield solid empirical knowledge about farmers’ needs, challenges and preferences when it comes to seeds and thereby contribute to better seed-related development policy and practice.

Incorporating the knowledge generated, the team aims to participate in the co-production of seed system innovation, together with strategic national and international actors, with the objective of seed security.