Seed Programs International

Pepper harvest in the rain

Pepper harvest in the rain

Hey there, folks. 

As a supporter of this project, you are probably familiar with GrowEastAfrica and what they’ve accomplished over the past year. This month, we are excited to share their latest work using sustainable processes to help improve Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) families' livelihoods in the Burji District of Ethiopia.

Burji district is located in southern Ethiopia. The district has a slight majority of women: total popu79,241 compared to 76,439 men. Burji is also one of the poorest districts in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. The district’s poverty is reflected in its infrastructure — Burji has no paved roads, no hospital, and only two high schools to serve twenty-six different villages.

GrowEastAfrica (GEA) and Seed Programs International (SPI) have partnered in Burji district to augment rural farmer families’ traditional knowledge about local farming and agriculture. By gaining access to high-quality vegetable seeds and learning new farming practices, families reduce their food vulnerability by growing nutritious vegetables and quinoa for self-sufficiency.

The GEA-SPI partnership focuses on the Birhan Ladies Group: a fifty-member women’s farming cooperative that was formed after 2,000 refugee families relocated near the town of Mega in southern Ethiopia. The refugee families—all traditionally-skilled farmers—fled their homes to escape inter-ethnic clashes between two Oromo tribes, the larger Borana tribe and smaller Burji tribe.

Birhan Ladies in the rain

Birhan Ladies in the rain

Hi folks, 

This month’s update comes from GrowEastAfrica, our partners in Ethiopia. If their name sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve been working with them since 2016 back when they were DBCO, and we’ve shared some of their story before.

Thanks to GlobalGiving partners, GrowEastAfrica and Seed Programs International are undertaking a project in the Burji District of Ethiopia to implement sustainable processes that improve the livelihoods of women who are establishing new livelihoods after being displaced by violence. Their current project, Birhan Vegetables & Pulse Producers & Supply Cooperative, is also known as the Birhan Ladies Group. 

The Birhan Ladies Group is a fifty-member women’s farming cooperative that was formed after 2,000 refugee families relocated near the town of Mega in southern Ethiopia. The refugee families—all farmers—fled their homes to escape inter-ethnic clashes between two Oromo tribes, the larger Borana tribe and smaller Burji tribe. The Borana are pastoralists, skilled at animal production and its derivative products, while the Burji are farmers who typically produce grains for their diet. For over two centuries, these two tribes co-existed peacefully, relying on one another for commerce and community. 

Debbie and Mike with their Seed Library

Debbie and Mike with their Seed Library

Hi folks,

First, thank you to all of our early supporters! With COVID-19 challenging global food security, this project (and others like it) is more important than ever. We have already seen that families want to be able to grow their own healthy food in the safety of their home. Food security panic peaked In the beginning months of the pandemic. Seed companies were experiencing unprecedented seed shortages, and families who relied on growing their own food found it difficult to access seed. These shortages not only affected gardeners in developing countries, but in the US as well. 

While seed companies have started to recover their inventory , the need for seed remains. Unemployment rates continue to rise in the US, and stay-at-home orders dramatically limit families’ ability to access fresh, nutritious food. For those most at risk of hunger and malnutrition, seed for home-based "resilience gardens" provides safe, essential nutrition.

It’s rare for us to partner so close to home, and we’re proud to be partnering locally as an addition to our international work — we believe local leaders are essential everywhere. This report introduces several new partners: Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, Ashe County Library, and Watauga Seed Library in North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture helps build an equitable, sustainable High Country local food system by supporting producers and cultivating community connections that educate, inspire, and increase the demand for local food.

Planting boxes are ready to go

Planting boxes are ready to go

Hi Folks, 

This update comes from our Peace Corps partner in Morocco, who you may remember from a previous report in June of 2019. Peace Corps Morocco focuses on empowering youth and local communities in remote, mostly rural areas. Gardens are created on the grounds of youth centers and boarding schools where Peace Corps volunteers use seeds as an opportunity to demonstrate lessons about the environment and agriculture. This keeps people linked to their land by nurturing an understanding of botanical life. 

Students lead the planning and production: cultivating soil, constructing garden beds, and planting seeds. During this process, the young gardeners learn about agricultural practices and environmental issues. Between their work in the gardens and accompanying lessons, they leave prepared to start their own local garden project, encouraging the community to start growing food of their own. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the safety of students and teachers has become paramount. Planting and regular classes have been put on hold at the youth centers and boarding schools. However, one garden at the Dar Chabaab was completed prior to the pandemic. One Peace Corps volunteer writes:

“I just want to follow up with a few notes about the Community Garden and our Environment Program, which I'm proud to say we were able to launch before life changed. Although everything came to an abrupt halt for all of us, I believe we will still be able to share with the kids some of the vegetables they planted during the season of Ramadan.”

- Mary-Elizabeth, Peace Corp Morocco Volunteer

Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815


Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON

Get Connected

Facebook  Twitter  Email

Join Our Newsletter

Signup with your email address below to receive our quarterly e-newsletter.


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.