Seed Programs International

According to a recent report conducted by the Liberia Food Security Cluster, the negative impact of the Ebola outbreak on household incomes and markets has contributed to food insecurity among about 640,000 people, corresponding to 16 percent of the population and incomes have decreased for one third of the households (35 percent) on average compared to the same period last year (January-March 2014). Since food insecurity in Liberia is affected by low agricultural production, we’re continuing to work with youth-led Agro-Enterprise Service Centers (AESCs) in Lofa, Bong and Margibi counties.

Liberia Farming as a BusinessWith assistance from June Lavelle – a seasoned enterprise development specialist who has provided technical assistance for the sustainable development of enterprise support organizations in more than thirty countries – the AESC’s are working to become self-sustainable while continuing to provide critical training, technical assistance and land preparation services for farmers’ groups and rural entrepreneurs to start-up or expand their existing rural enterprises.

With our first round of fundraising of $3,250, we were able to send a first tranche of 12,500 packets of vegetable seeds, consisting of 15 different vegetables, and we now are in the process of sending the second tranche of 6,000 packets for the upcoming planting season. All seeds are non-GMO and most are open-pollinated seeds.

In addition to using some of the seeds to plant demonstration farms, our partner AESCs have distributed seeds and provided technical assistance and training on improved agricultural practices and farming as a business to more than 6,000 farmers. To improve efficiency, the AESCs have organized farmers into groups. For example, since March of this year, the Jacob F. Tomei Enterprise Center has organized 3,098 farmers into 96 groups while the Green Coast Agriculture Program which also is working with more than 3,000 farmers in groups, has also organized 25 youth groups with 20 members each to grow vegetables for the first time, using the donated seeds.

This year, we are aiming to raise an additional $8,000 to help the AESCs purchase three-wheeled cargo motorbikes, costing $3,000 each, for transporting farmers’ produce to markets and scales to weigh the cargo. Additionally, funds will be used to cover the cost of shipping video projection equipment to Liberia from Poland. The equipment will be used for training smallholder farmers and rural youth on a range of topics from improved agricultural practices to family planning. Any additional funds will be used to purchase more vegetable seeds.

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The thermometer has been increased to $11,500 for these purposes. Thank you so much!

You can give online at GiveDirect, our secure donation processing partner. Please enter “Liberia Seeds” in the comments field. All gifts to SPI are tax-deductible.

We welcome checks mailed to: SPI, PO Box 9163, Asheville, NC 28815.

Thank you for supporting nutrition and livelihood for Liberians.

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GuatemalaIxil Maya communities in northwest Guatemala are still recovering from a long civil war that left families shattered and no way for widows and other elders to escape poverty and malnutrition for themselves or their children. Guatemalan Ixil Maya children suffer an 85% malnutrition rate. Today, Ixil farmers are organized into a coffee-producers organization and are working toward income improvement, but this does not address the lack of nutritious food for widows and their children. Many vegetable gardens are unplanted due to a lack of seeds. It is hard manual labor to make a garden on steep mountain sides that need to be cleared of brush, dug out by hand and terraced. Want to learn more about Ixil Maya efforts to build self-reliance, health, and income? Visit our partner website at http://asoixil.org/ (Spanish language) or this English-language blog post from Bright Star Philanthropy Partners.

With your help, vegetable seeds provided by Seed Programs International will grow fresh vegetables for 20 Maya Ixil elders in great need of nutrition and income, so each can grow more than 500 fresh vegetable servings. These elders, including widows and their children, will have new access to nutritious organic vegetables by receiving seeds, a hoe, and a younger helper. Critical family income is increased through cash or barter of surplus produce in the local markets. Seed banks and vegetable starts will be combined with education to provide for sustainability. By selling or bartering surplus produce in the local markets, widows will have new access to medicine and ability to pay school tuition for their children.

Please donate today to help this effort. The thermometer will be updated daily to reflect gifts received in each 24 hour period. Thank you so much!

Donate Now

You can give online at Give2Charity, our secure donation processing partner. Please enter “Guatemala Maya” in the comments field. All gifts to SPI are tax-deductible.

We welcome checks mailed to: SPI, PO Box 9163, Asheville, NC 28815.

Your gift keeps on giving! In the long term, elders, widows, their children, and youth helpers will learn traditional Mayan organic farming and new methods in composting and soil improvement. Seed banks will ensure long term sustainability, support a strong education program, economic development, and increased food security.

Elders in Chajul, Guatemala. Tools

Why grow vegetables?Vegetable growing is a good fit for the needs of poor rural and peri-urban families because vegetables can be a source of both nutrition and income. The term “agrobiodiversity” refers to how wide-ranging the crops are which a population grows in their farms and gardens. Increasing agrobiodiversity boosts nutrition, income, and resiliency to disaster.

Unlike seeds for staple foods, vegetable seed supply chains are narrow—there may be few or no sources reaching remote areas where people are hungry. Seed sources are unreliable. “What’s in the package isn’t even the same species on the label,” one partner in Haiti told us.

Vegetable gardens can be transformative. Compared with other crops, the harvest is quick and diverse in nutrition. One vegetable garden can help a family move from aid dependency to self-sufficiency. One box of SPI seeds can grow 100 vegetable gardens – 5 tons of food.

Why are people hungry?Poverty and unjust distribution of resources are the basic causes of hunger. Half of the people in our world live on $2 per day or less. Though most have permanent access to land, they lack the resources to make the land a productive part of sustaining their families.

Ineffective, corrupt, and/or unstable governments are one driver of poverty. For example, in 2007, Madagascar was on track to achieve Millenium Development Goals in the areas of child mortality and extreme poverty, but a 6-year period of unstable governance shackled the economy and those goals are no longer achievable (World Bank, 2015).  Large populations may be forcibly driven from their homes, land, and work to make room for enterprises that benefit those in power.

Epidemics and natural disasters also drive vulnerable families into dire circumstances and erase people’s past progress toward self-reliance. In Syria, a horrible period of four years of war has driven more than 10 million people from their homes; in Uganda, the HIV epidemic has been partially responsible for a population that is 5% orphans; in Central America, extreme drought and a coffee plant fungus have eliminated a key source of income for millions, causing widespread famine.

When women or other groups have unequal access to resources, this perpetuates food shortage and poor health. One study (UN World Food Program) showed that women's education contributed 43% of the reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounted for 26%.

Multi seed packsSPI has a time-tested method to securing good quality seed and ensuring it gets to the people who need it most. Our partners understand that after all of the effort it takes them to disperse seed to the people who need it in politically and geographically challenging conditions, the seed better be good. After all the work it takes those who are already-weakened to prepare ground and grow crops, bad seed can hurt more than it helps.

SPI uses a unique six-step approach to make sure that the seed we distribute is good seed.

Step 1: Seed Acquisition

The SPI process begins with the acquisition of donated seed. SPI’s board of directors and staff leverage their strong relationships in the seed industry to secure donated seed that would otherwise be destroyed. Some of the world’s leading seed companies donate this seed with an understanding it will be used for humanitarian purposes. SPI facilitates an efficient business model built on reclamation and corporate investment.

Step 2: Seed Selection

Determining what seed is suitable to plant in destination countries is key to ensuring successful outcomes for smallholder farmers. SPI’s seed experts evaluate the destination site’s climate and terrain and recommend seed that will yield a wide variety of crops. Horticulturalist Dave Bender, Ph.D., has more than 20 years of horticulture research experience to serve the needs of our partners.

Step 3: Testing

SPI tests its seed to ensure that it will grow and produce in the destination countries. SPI works with privately owned and accredited seed laboratories that test for germination rate and vitality. Seed that is tested and determined to be too marginal in quality for international distribution is given out in other ways or discarded. SPI ensures that a majority of seed it receives from business partners finds its way to a useful purpose.

Step 4: Packaging

SPI packages seeds in individual garden packets printed in multiple languages. Instructions are printed on the back of each package on how to plant each type of seed, the amount of time it takes for the seeds to germinate, and the amount of time it takes for the plants to mature. We have printed packets in Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Haitian, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Kiswahili – but we can print in any language if requested. Small packaging allows end users to transport seed easily. Other education materials included in shipments.

Step 5: Shipping

A critically important function SPI serves for its humanitarian partners is that of packaging and shipping the seed. SPI handles the packaging of the boxes, testing documentation, and import documentation. The most desirable way for SPI to get seed to the end user is by air, but shipping by boat or by personal courier can be more cost effective. Quality travel conditions are of utmost importance. SPI strives to provide the most cost effective method of shipping that will preserve the quality of the seed.

Step 6: Distribution and Oversight

SPI delivers seed to humanitarian organizations worldwide where it is distributed by its humanitarian partner organizations to people in need. Family, school and community gardens are planted and are thriving. Seed usually needs to be delivered each year in order to keep these small farming efforts thriving and producing vegetables. SPI provides ongoing support to organizations and farmers around the world. When partners aim to develop local self-sufficiency via seed saving or identifying local/regional sources of quality seeds, we can help.


Hear It From Our Partners

  • GrowEastAfrica Women's Group

    Fate, GrowEastAfrica, Ethiopia

    Fate is a farmer who has forged a new livelihood from the resources and education she accessed through GrowEastAfrica, an SPI partner in Ethiopia. Building upon her training, she’s stepped into leadership with the Soyama Women's Association. She shares:

    "Just a few years ago, we were a community that was worried about what we would eat tomorrow and what the future looks like. Today, not only are we growing our own food, but we’re making plans for the future of our people and our community. We are creating markets for ourselves, we're inspiring and empowering each other, and we're saving money and contributing to our own development. Because of the support from Seed Programs International and Yohannes, we now have access to water where there was none. We’re building on what we’ve already accomplished to include neighboring villages and communities. Hope has come back to us, and we hope to grow our project so everyone — us, our communities, our villages and our country — can become fully self-reliant. We have reached this place because of the support of many people that we will never meet. It is all thanks you to you. Thank you for choosing to invest in our community and in our well-being."

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Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815


Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON

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Seed Programs International (SPI)

Seed Programs InternationalSeed Programs International (SPI) is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-governmental humanitarian organization.

We work thorough other humanitarian organizations, church groups, service clubs and individual donors, to provide quality seed to impoverished communities in developing countries enabling them to grow some of their own food. In addition to seed, SPI provides critical seed expertise and experience operating seed based self help programs.”

SPI is operated by individuals with over 50 years seed industry experience plus over 20 years experience in vegetable research and production. We also have 15 years experience operating programs that have successfully shipped seed to over 70 countries on five continents. SPI has shipped enough seed to plant over 1,000,000 vegetable gardens, providing more than 20 kinds of vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals often missing in people’s diets.