Farmer-saved and farmer-traded seed (i.e. the informal seed sector) is, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, the major source of seed of staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers consider their own seed (farmer-saved) or that of their social network (farmer-traded) to be readily available, affordable and trusted, however, it is prone to disruption as a result of natural and civil upheavals, drought, pests and diseases. Moreover, whilst the genetic traits of seed in the informal sector may be favourable for certain conditions or uses, it does not necessarily benefit from the higher yield potential, pest/disease resistance or tolerance to a range of physical conditions, available in improved, commercial varieties i.e. the formal seed sector.
Recognising the important and vital role played by the informal seed sector, in 2003 CAB International (CABI) launched the ‘Good Seed Initiative’ (GSI) – a global initiative that seeks to strengthen the capacity of small-holders to source, produce, manage and disseminate seed, and thereby contribute to food security and improved livelihoods. The GSI was launched in East Africa at the GSI Morogoro Workshop (CABI, 2003), funded by the Swiss Development Agency and co-ordinated by CABI’s Africa Regional Centre (CABI-ARC). Over the past 10 years, the Crop Protection Programme (CPP) and the Crop Post Harvest Programme (CPHP) of the Department for International Development have, together with other donors, supported numerous projects which have generated seed-related research outputs on ways to produce and manage good seed, to promote new varieties and the in situ conservation of indigenous agro-biodiversity.