Research Council of Norway (NORGLOBAL2)
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'?
ACCESS is a transdisciplinary project carried out by an international and multidisciplinary research group. Project researchers from crop science, economics, political science, development studies and law engage 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.
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.
This objective is addressed through four secondary objectives:
- Understanding seed use from large national livelihood data sets
- Understanding farmers’ seed access and preferences through micro-level livelihood studies and choice experiments.
- 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.
- Co-production of seed system innovation for seed security
The ACCESS team worked with a range of Norwegian actors to promote Access to Seeds and Seed Security as a game-changer proposal in the process leading up to the Food System Summit 2021 organized by the UN. This was a dynamic process involving a range of meetings, evolving proposal documents and presentations. This involvement was part of the co-production of knowledge and innovation for seed system interventions, one of the objectives of ACCESS.
- 20-24 November 2023
Tenth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Bram de Jonge organized/presented ACCESS research at a side event called How to develop a farmers’ variety registration system? and Regine Andersen organized/presented at a side event called Removing the bottlenecks: How to create space for farmer managed seed.
- 16 October 2023
Ola Westengen and Ruth Haug organized a World Food Day breakfast seminar at Kulturhuset in Oslo with the Norwegian Minister of Development and other food security experts from civil society and academia.
- 9 October 2023
Ola Westengen presented ACCESS research when the Norad leadership visited NMBU for dicsussions on common interests and collaboration.
- 6 October 2023
Teshome Hunduma Mulesa was a panelist in the online event High-Level Dialogue on Inclusive Seed Sector Development organized by The African Union’s AfricaSeeds.
- 27 September 2023
ACCESS end-seminar at NMBU. The ACCESS research team that were present in Norway presented and discussed the project results in a half-day seminar at NMBU. The seminar was attended by representatives from Norad, the Ministries, civil society organizations and other research organizations working on seed and food system security and sustainability.
- 15 May 2023
Ruth Haug and Ola Westengen participated in a visit to NMBU by CIMMYT Director General for discussions on current and future collaborations: Delegasjon fra CIMMYT besøkte NMBU (internal NMBU article).
- 10 May 2023
Ola Westengen was a discussant at the public seminar Food Security and Conflict in Colombia organized by a sister NORGLOBAL2 project at OsloMet.
- 20 April 2023
Regine Andersen and Ola Westengen participated in an advisory meeting on digital gene sequence information with the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment and Norwegian negotiators from the Ministry. The topic was the way forward for Access and Benefit Sharing provisions for Digital Sequence Information in the Convention of Biological Diversity and related international agreements.
- 14 April 2023
Ola Westengen was invited speaker at the 12th Annual Cornell Plant Breeding Symposium at Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
- 13 April 2023
Joseph Hella and Teshome Hunduma Mulesa organized and spoke at the workshop Strengthening Genebank and Seed System Linkages in Tanzania. Dodoma, Tanzania
- 28-30 March
Bram de Jonge gave a talk at the Farmer Variety Registration Workshop organized by CRS and Oxfam Novib and collaborators, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
- 2 March 2023
Ruth Haug and Ola Westengen held Pecha Kucha presentations in the Green Week event Food and Peace at Vitenparken, NMBU, Ås.
- 22-27 January 2023
Postgraduate course on Smallholder Engagement in Seed Systems: From Field Practice to Science. Co-organized with Wageningen University & Research and Oxfam Novib in Ede, the Netherlands.
- 8-9 December 2022
ACCESS Workshop, Ramme Gård.
- 5 December 2022
The US Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Cary Fowler to visit NMBU. Event organized by Ola Westengen.
- 1 December 2022
ACCESS PhD candidate Clifton Makate successfully defended his PhD thesis 'Seed security in the presence of climate shocks and socioeconomic inequality in Africa’
- 15 November 2022
Media produced during the UN Climate Summit:
Såfrø for et varmere klima. Article in Forskning.no
Seeds for a warmer climate. English press release
- 8 September 2022
Sustainable Food Systems. Talk and panel participation by Ola Westengen at Student conference Health and Sustainability at UiO, Oslo
- 25 May 2022
Dynamics of seed use and climate change: Evidence from Integrated Household Surveys in Malawi
Westengen OT, Makate C, Tione G, Angelsen A & Holden ST
Presentation by Ola Westengen at LUANAR Climate Smart Agriculture Conference, Lilongwe, Malawi
- 9 May 2022
Seeds and Seed Security.
Talk by Ola Westengen during visit to NMBU by the Norwegian Minister of Development Cooperation
- 24 March 2022
Who owns the seeds? (Hvem eier frøene?), Ås Kulturhus.
Talk by Ola Westengen
- 25 September 2021
UN Food System Summit: Put farmers’ access to crop diversity first in seed policy and practice
ACCESS project staff played a central role in an initiative to get seed security at the agenda at the UN Food System Summit. A coalition with members from governmental and non-governmental organizations, farmer organizations and academia was formed to promote this agenda. ACCESS staff gave several presentations about the importance of seed security in a food system perspective in a number of international meetings and consultations leading up to the summit. The ACCESS PI, Ola Westengen, was part of the official Norwegian delegation to the pre-summit in Rome in June as well as to the summit itself in New York in September. The central message of the coalition was taken onboard by the Norwegian prime minister in here speech to the summit as reflected in this quote: “We will empower the smallholder farmer in our development assistance. We will place farmers at the core of the seed system. Seed security is key.”
Read and watch more on the Norwegian government website.
- 23 September 2021
There is something rotten in the world’s food system / Det er noe råttent i verdens matsystem
Op-ed in Aftenposten by Ola Westengen
- Interview with Ruth Haug in Bistandsaktuelt: Why the UN organizes a Summit on Food Systems / Derfor holder FN toppmøte om mat.
- 20 May 2021
Seed Security from Svalbard to Farmers’ Fields: A perspective from Norway. CIMMYT Special Seminar Series
- 4 May 2021
Ola Westengen was invited speaker at the Public Forum 4 for Food Systems Summit Action Track 1: Ensure Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All: The video is published on the website of the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.
- 25 March 2021
Gener, makt og mangfold - et webinar om matsikkerhet (Genes, power and diversity - a webinar on food security).
Ola Westengen was invited speaker at this event, organised by the Development Fund, Norwegian Rural Youth (Norges Bygdeungdomslag), Spire and GMO-nettverket.
- 8 December 2020
Through war, wildfire and pandemic, the world’s seed vaults hold strong.
Ola Westengen interviewed by Mongabay, a website publishing news on environmental science, energy and green design.
- 26 November 2020
Interview with Ola Westengen on national Norwegian radio programme NRK Ekko.
Westengen speaks about seeds and genetic resources in relation to an article he co-authored in Nature Plants.
- 17 November 2020
These Rare Seeds Escaped Syria's War—to Help Feed the World.
Ola Westengen interviewed by Wired magazine.
- 10 November 2020
Saving Syria's seed bank.
Ola Westengen interviewed in Nature Middle East.
- 10 November 2020
Out of Syria.
Blog post in the Nature Ecology and Evolution Blog written by Ola Westengen to accompany an article he co-authored in Nature Plants.
- 25 February 2020
Ola Westengen contributed as expert advisor to a high-level meeting of the UN Secretary General’s Advocacy Group for the Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting focused on the links between SDG target 2.5 on maintaining genetic diversity and the wider 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The meeting, held in Longyearbyen in Svalbard, led to the launch of the Arctic Call to Action on Food Security and Climate Change.
- 14 November 2019
Book launch. The book Farmers and Plant Breeding (Routledge 2020) was launched at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) headquarters in Rome. The book brings together experiences in farmer–breeder collaborative plant breeding from around the world. The book is edited by Ola T. Westengen and Tone Winge. The launch took place during the meeting of the parties (Governing Body) to the Plant Treaty.
More about the book.
- 22 August 2019
In line with the co-innovation objectives of ACCESS, Ola Westengen moderated a seminar with representatives from ministries, NGOs and academia on Norway's official development assistance to conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources. The meeting was held at Norad.
- 20-24 November 2023
- Makate C, Angelsen A, Holden, ST & Westengen OT (2023). Rainfall shocks and inequality have heterogeneous effects on farmers' seed purchase decisions in East Africa. Climate Risk Management, 42, p. 100556
- Haug R, Hella JP, Mulesa TH, Kakwera MN & Westengen, OT (2023). Seed systems development to navigate multiple expectations in Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania. World Development Sustainability, 3, p.100092.
- Wendmu TA, Gebrelibanos TS, Kovi MR, Ring KH, de Boer HJ, Abera, FA & Westengen, OT (2023). "People Gathered by Sorghum": Cultural Practices and Sorghum Diversity in Northern Ethiopia. Human Ecology, pp.1-13.
- Westengen OT, Dalle SP, Mulesa TH (2023). Navigating toward resilient and inclusive seed systems Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 120 (14), e2218777120
- Makate C, Angelsen A, Holden ST & Westengen OT (2023). Evolution of farm-level crop diversification and response to rainfall shocks in smallholder farming: Evidence from Malawi and Tanzania. Ecological Economics, 205, p.107736.
- Vansant EC, Kerr RB, Sørensen H, Phiri I & Westengen OT (2022). Exchange and experimentation: community seed banks strengthen farmers’ seed systems in Northern Malawi. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, pp. 1-22.
- Marenya P, Wanyama R, Alemu S, Westengen OT & Jaleta M (2022). Maize variety preferences among smallholder farmers in Ethiopia: Implications for demand-led breeding and seed sector development. PLoS ONE 17(9).
- Makate C, Angelsen A, Holden ST & Westengen OT (2022). Crops in crises: Shocks shape smallholders' diversification in rural Ethiopia. World Development, 159, 106054.
- Wendmu TA, Cuni-Sanchez, A, Abebe HT, de Boer HJ, Abera FA, & Westengen OT (2022). Cultural Effects on Sorghum Varieties Grown, Traits Preferred, and Seed Management Practices in Northern Ethiopia. Economic Botany, 1-17.
- Louwaars N & De Jonge B (2021) Regulating Seeds—A Challenging Task. Agronomy, 11, 2324.
- Mulesa TH (2021) Politics of Seed in Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation: Pathways to Seed System Development. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 5:742001
- Makate C & Mutenje M (2021) Discriminatory effects of gender disparities in improved seed and fertilizer use at the plot-level in Malawi and Tanzania. World Development Perspectives, 23, p.100344.
- Jakobsen J & Westengen OT (2021). The imperial maize assemblage: maize dialectics in Malawi and India. Journal of Peasant Studies, pp.1-25.
- Mulesa TH, Dalle SP, Makate C, Haug R & Westengen OT (2021). Pluralistic Seed System Development: A Path to Seed Security? Agronomy 11(2), 372.
- Westengen OT, Lusty C, Yazbek M, Amri A & Asdal Å (2020). Safeguarding a global seed heritage from Syria to Svalbard. Nature Plants 6 (11), 1311-1317.
- Dalle SD & Westengen OT (2020) Seed security in theory and practice: A comparative study of seed security frameworks and their use. Noragric Report No. 86. ISSN: 1892-8102.
- Westengen OT (2020) Gener – en fellesressurs? Klassekampen, 3 September 2020.
- Westengen OT (2020) What happens with access to seeds in times of crisis? A popular science article on ACCESS in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic published in the Norwegian daily, Aftenposten.
- Westentgen OT & Winge T (eds) (2020) Farmers and Plant Breeding - Current Approaches and Perspectives. London. Routledge.
- Westengen OT, Haug R, Guthiga P & Macharia EJF (2019) Governing seeds in East Africa in the face of climate change: Assessing political and social outcomes. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 3:53
- Master theses:
- Viviana Meixner Vasquez (2021). Beyond seed security responses: Impacts of seed programmes on seed security and income generation of small-scale farmers in Malawi and Uganda. NMBU
- Vansant E. (2019) Beyond Blanket Solutions: Examining the Potential of Community Seed Banks to Improve Maize Seed Security in Northern Malawi. NMBU