Seed Programs International



Esther is a farmer from Makongo village and a member of the Makongo Farmers Network in south-central Kenya, where she owns ½ acre of land. She was forced to relocate from Eldoret in western Kenya due to political instability during 2007-2008. A single mother, she supports eight children, five of whom are in school.

Following common practice, Esther believed that her only option for securing her family’s livelihood as a farmer was to grow maize. In the 2015-2016 growing season, she invested in purchasing maize seed and fertilizers. She planted the seeds, tended the plants, cared for the field and crop, and harvested her maize. She brought the crop to market, and after she added everything up, found that growing maize cost her more than she could sell it for at market. She was losing money, having already invested in the type of farming she had hoped would support her family.

Photo by Jon Brack

Photo by Jon Brack

Seed Programs International is not a first responder. Instead, we focus on long-term relief by building strong relationships with local leaders and organizations who teach us how best to support their communities. When a community begins to recover from a disaster like Hurricane Matthew, we rely on these partners, who are on the ground and embedded within the community, to assess the local situation and inform our response.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew flooded away crops that people were relying on to feed themselves through the coming months. And the resources to quickly replant, like seeds and fertilizers, have not been readily available.

Transplanting tomato plants in Yorito

Transplanting tomato plants in Yorito

Last July, we shared how our field partner in Honduras, FIPAH (Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers), was working to organize field schools (ECAs) to train community-led farmer research teams (CIALs) over five regions in Honduras. These CIALs are tasked with:

  • On-farm conservation of farmer seed varieties
  • Secure seed supply through seed reproduction and sale
  • Participatory plant breeding
  • Community-run seed and gene banks
  • Cooperative grain storage systems

(Read more about FIPAH and the CIALs in this PDF.)

Their goal is to establish one ECA per region that will offer both general and region-specific agricultural training for the CIALs. The ECAs plan to develop a total of eight training modules, and three modules have already been developed:

  1. Organizing an ECA (a field school)
  2. Preparing the ground for a garden and constructing seedbeds
  3. Planting and transplanting. 

FIPAH also reports that there are 53 participants, including 37 women and 16 men from 21 communities over 5 municipalities of Honduras. The ECAs currently have seven species of vegetables from which they can produce quality seed, and they are actively expanding this repository. These community leaders are distributing seeds that families can use to start their own gardens, and they will continue working with recipient families through January 2017. 

FIPAH, the ECAs, and CIALs are laying the foundation to self-sustainability through community-led education and local seed production. By engaging community leaders to teach agriculture specific to each region, they ensure that this knowledge will remain in the collective memory of the community for generations to come. 

We never take your support of these projects for granted. So, thank you, and may 2017 find you well!

ECA participants in Yorito

ECA participants in Yorito

ECA participants in Vallecillos

ECA participants in Vallecillos

Naima with a member of the women

Naima with a member of the women's group

In September, I visited several women’s groups in northern Kenya that are supported locally by Seed Program International partners HODI and SSNK. I want to tell you about the Khairi Women’s Self Help Group in Marsabit, who is using a popular Kenyan form of self-financing called a Chama to supplement the agricultural resources SPI provides.

Chamas are self-managed and member-invested groups of 15-25 women who meet regularly to support one another and decide which member-led business initiatives the Chama will finance. Its systems are kept simple and transparent to ensure that all women participate in decision-making and benefit from the collective investments.

Groups are usually formed with trusted friends and family, so meetings often feel like family gatherings or a tea party with friends. Besides business planning, meetings also provide the group with opportunities to participate in educational programs with HODI and SSNK where they learn about the benefits of setting goals, planning ahead, and saving. Women at the Khairi Women’s group in Marsabit participate in a monthly business management and savings training, and also receive individual mentoring.

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.