New Initiative Catalyzes Sustainable Seed Systems from Caribbean to the Atlantic
A new initiative will catalyze seed systems development in Haiti and Senegal and sustainably deliver agricultural research outputs to farmers at-scale.
The ILCI-Caribbean-Atlantic Seed Systems Initiative (CASSi) — led by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI), in partnership with Seed Systems Group, Quisqueya University in Haiti and Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA) in Senegal — will strengthen alliances between researchers and farmers to effectively get improved seeds into the market.
Haiti and Senegal are an ocean apart geographically, but share two things in common: chronically low crop yields among smallholder farmers and a dependency on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture to supply the bulk of food and income. Climate change has posed additional challenges to delivering staple food security crops, with severe droughts in Senegal and frequent and devastating storms in Haiti.
CASSi’s ultimate intent is to build stronger relationships with smallholder farmers, according to Gael Pressoir, co-principal investigator of the Central American and Caribbean Crop Improvement Alliance (CACCIA) and dean for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FSAE) at Quisqueya University.
“Our crop improvement research will only make a long-term impact if we can sustainably supply farmers with more productive options for their farms,” Pressoir said. “This new partnership will catalyze change at scale to deliver lasting benefits for the people of Haiti and Senegal.”
The initiative unites public sector-led research with the extension focus of the private sector with Seed Systems Group, an Africa-based team of seed systems specialists working to enhance the delivery of improved seeds to smallholder farmers. CASSi was initiated by Joseph Devries, founder and president of Seed Systems Group, who brings over 30 years of experience in African agricultural development. The partnership will encourage local economic and job growth through the development of seed system enterprises alongside a farmer-demand driven supply chain.
“By developing farmer demand for seed of improved varieties, we hope to leverage additional investment and innovation into this field from both private and public entities,” said Ndjido Kane, director of ISRA-Ceraas and principal investigator of ILCI’s Crop Innovation in West Africa (CIWA). “CASSi will proactively link private, local seed entrepreneurs with relevant financial and technical service providers to help them grow their operations.”
As part of the initiative, farmers will receive sample seed packs through village-based advisors (VBAs). These private-sector VBAs provide trusted information to local farmers and provide a feedback loop between ILCI’s scientific network and the broader agricultural community.
The initiative will take a nuanced approach seed systems with a social lens that recognizes how different social groups and identities interact within seed systems. Women have critical roles in seed selection, dissemination and sale in Haiti and Senegal, according to Deborah Rubin, co-director of Cultural Practice, LLC and co-lead of ILCI’s cross-cutting themes team.
“Addressing the gender dimensions of the seed value chain must be embedded in the research process,” Rubin said.
Based in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, ILCI partners with scientists and stakeholders around the globe to codevelop tools, technologies and methods in crop improvement that address local concerns and focus on community impact. ILCI’s goal is to listen to the National Agricultural Research Institute as they define their goals and drive advancement to breed resilient crop varieties that stand up to pests, diseases and climate change. ILCI’s four Centers of Innovations are based in Costa Rica and Haiti, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda and cover a range of local crops essential to food security.
Feed the Future is the United States’ initiative to combat global hunger and poverty. It brings partners together to help some of the world’s poorest countries harness the power of agriculture and entrepreneurship to jumpstart their economies and create new opportunities. For more information, visit feedthefuture.gov.