Seed Programs International

We like to share success stories, struggles, recipes, gardening tips, and the latest examples of our work with our supporters. But as the peak season for charitable donation is upon us, you might be wishing for clear answers to some more basic questions that help complete the picture of SPI. Donating to our work (or that of any non-profit organization) is an act of great trust; being stewards of that trust is a responsibility that we take seriously. So, call or email anytime with questions. In the meantime, these are a few of the questions we get asked the most:

I know you send vegetable seeds and support training all over the world so that people can grow gardens, but how do you choose where to partner up and send seeds?

SPI engages with and helps build the strength of local people and communities. Local people understand their own culture, context, and priorities best. So most of all we’re looking for effective, emerging, respected, and respectful leadership. Sometimes people and organizations here in the US and Canada have already identified such leaders, and can help them access SPI seed. Other times, small organizations in Africa, the Caribbean, and other regions find us online or through a past SPI partner. Once we’re established in one part of a country, we may deliberately seek out other effective partnerships nearby.  

Where does the seed come from . . . and is it genetically modified (GMO)?
Because we ship hundreds of thousands of packets a year, the smaller companies who sell direct to the public are not our seed donors. Many of the companies that donate seed to us are working behind the scenes growing seed that in the end gets packaged under other brand names. Two examples are Condor Seed Production, an Arizona company, and Sakata, a Japanese seed company with a US office in California.

SPI does not provide any GMO seed. We don’t work with grains like corn and rice; for almost all the types of vegetables we offer, there are no GMO types in existence. For a couple (such as squash and eggplant) there a few GMO types. We are never offered these varieties, nor would we accept them if we were — import is not allowed in many of our destination countries.

How big is your budget and how much of it goes to programs? Will my donation be used efficiently, without waste? Our budget for 2017 is about $250,000. You can download our tax return and our audited financials from our website. Our CEO compensation appears on page 7 of the tax return. Page 10 shows that expense percentages were 89.7% for programs vs.10.3% for administration and fundraising.

For how many years do you send seed to the same place?
We don’t think sending seeds thousands of miles from the US is a good long-term solution. Whether a project is focused on crisis recovery, income, basic nutrition, resilience to disaster, or any other goal, it is important for SPI to start partnerships with an end in mind. Our goal is to work with our partners to help seed growers and recipients achieve self-sufficiency. Sometimes this is through seed saving. More often our partners’ work is to achieve a heightened interest in growing, eating, and selling vegetables. Once that is in place, there is personal and financial motivation for program partners or seed recipients to connect with vegetable seed sellers in their own region. 

How are you funded?
People like you are essential to our work! Currently we pay our bills with a ratio of just about 1/3 grants from charitable foundations, 1/2 donations from individuals and businesses, and the rest from contributions to seed cost by our partners. (When we provide seed for better-resourced partners like the UN World Food Program or US-based church group, we charge them a small amount per packet to help cover our cost.)

Can I give you seed that I saved, or my leftover seed packets?
Unfortunately, no, for a couple of reasons. First, we are careful to select varieties that will grow well in tropical areas where most malnourished people live. Many common vegetable garden varieties from the US would not do well. Second, to meet the strict import laws of some countries, seeds are inspected by the USDA to be free of pests, diseases, invasive weed seed, etc. If we gathered seeds from many small sources, we could not pass these inspections.


enza zadenEnza Zaden is an innovative, international vegetable breeder and seed producer based in the region known as “seed valley” in The Netherlands. Enza’s US headquarters is in Salinas, California.

Enza Zaden and SPI are for-profit and not-for-profit companies, yet we share very similar goals. “Our primary aim is to grant people anywhere in the world access to healthy, varied vegetables,” is Enza’s pledge. They achieve that by breeding varieties that require fewer crop inputs, are resistant to diseases, and that can be grown in places where very few vegetable cropping choices are otherwise available. To back up the seed, Enza staff provide technical assistance to growers and remote distributors in order to get the most benefit from their varieties.

As a generous supporter of SPI’s work via cash donation, Enza Zaden is putting extra muscle into their core beliefs. While Enza uses a sustainable business model to reach emerging small farmers in economically developing regions, SPI is providing similar services to people who can’t afford seeds at all, are too isolated to reach seed sources, and/or have been touched by crises and disasters. As conditions improve and SPI’s local partners work to strengthen their communities, SPI seed users can become customers of Enza Zaden and other seed companies, many of whom are working hard to extend the availability of good vegetable seed throughout the word.

There are still 800 million people in our world who don’t have enough nutrition to lead a healthy life. To solve a problem this big, we need all hands on deck working together: businesses, charities, individual supporters of all faiths and backgrounds, and people striving to improve their own communities. Thank you, Enza Zaden, for joining us in this work.

October 2017 Stakeholder Meeting Participants
October 2017 Stakeholder Meeting Participants

Hi folks,

So much has happened since the last report! As we shared earlier, our focus, as directed by our partners, has shifted toward facilitating an exit strategy that relies upon the collective strengths of our partners and their network. As their strategies have become more sophisticated and their capacity has expanded, we've asked them to help us understand where the network is headed next.

Third Stakeholder Meeting

Late in October, the partnership network organized a stakeholder meeting in Breweville City, Montserrado County, Liberia. During the meeting, they developed an action plan based on their pool of peer resources — the skills, tools, and supplies available to them. We’re working closely with our ground coordinator, Francis Bendoe, and our partners to ensure that everyone is represented in the plan and that there is support as the network becomes more self-sufficient.

24 participants attended the meeting to represent their organizations, including:

  • Church Aid Liberia
  • Green Cost Agriculture Program (GCAP)
  • Jacob F. Tomei Enterprise Center (JFTEC)
  • Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society
  • 4-H Liberia
  • Restoration of Education Advancement Programs (REAP)
  • Network Innovation for Children’s Endeavor (NICE)
  • Food Bank Liberia
  • Restoring Our Children’s Hope
  • Other local and community-based organizations
  • Journalists, local farmers, and religious leaders

Related themes that partners reported emerging from the meeting included:

  • Seed is life.
  • Seed is wealth.
  • Invest seed into the soil for development. (This is a focus on seed as a resource for long-term nutrition and economic development in addition to food production for immediate consumption.)
  • Sow seed today for a better tomorrow.

We're also excited to report that 75,000 packets of SPI seed arrived in Liberia in time for this gathering. For this, our gratitude goes out to you for your support of this project, and to GlobalGiving for their generous support of this Ebola recovery project. This seed was highly anticipated, and was distributed among the partners according to the partnership plan that was created at an earlier meeting. Here's what some of our partners had to say:

Let our goal be to reach to the unreachable with SPI seeds that are helping us to fight diseases, hunger, and poverty in Liberia, which are our greatest enemies.  — Bishop Kortu K. Brown of Church Aid Liberia

Because of the support from SPI seeds, more vegetables were available in Bentol City market. This encouraged growers to eat more vegetables, which improved their nutrition, and livelihoods improved from income they earned. I’m very glad to receive SPI seeds and I pledge my commitment to ensure that these seeds will reach the people who will benefit most. I encourage close collaboration among us SPI Liberia Network Partners to support each other in our areas of expertise.  — Mayor Christine Tolbert Norman of Restoring of REAP

From Recovery to Resilience

Besides seed distribution and discussion about different aspects of self-sufficiency, Church Aid Liberia conducted a training on entrepreneurial skills for farmers. Farmers learned how to plant a commercial garden, including methods for estimating what income they can expect from the harvest.

Asked to assess the benefit of the partnership program, 4-H Liberia shared: this program provides a career path for young people to develop interest in feeding the nation. Access to tool banks via the partnership network is very useful. The children used to complain that their parents would refuse to let them borrow tools. Now, most of them have tools to cultivate their gardens.

These trainings, themes, and participant statements are all indications that our partners have grown from recovery toward self-sufficiency and resilience. Our SPI team could not provide support for our partners without your support. We’re humbled and grateful for your support and the work of our partners.

Thank you.

Miatta giving remarks (Church Aid Liberia)

Miatta giving remarks (Church Aid Liberia)

Mayor Christine giving remarks (REAP)

Mayor Christine giving remarks (REAP)

Jacob collects his SPI seed packets (JFTEC)

Jacob collects his SPI seed packets (JFTEC)

Eggplant harvest

Eggplant harvest

Nathan Rwabulemba, Executive director of our Uganda partner organization TAPA says the possibility of creating a prosperous community with improved standards of living is his inspiration. Below is a recent report summary shared by Nathan.

“TAPA has supported individual women and women’s groups in economic strengthening since the inception of the organisation.  We reach women through mobilization and organising group formation of Village saving and Loaning associations (VS&LA), supporting women with domestic animals for income generation, supporting backyard gardens and small farms run by women. Our main goal is to improve the nutrition of children and other family members,  women empowerments on their rights to reduce gender-based violence. Most of these women are caretakers of HIV/AIDS orphans that have been denied and ostracised by their communities. These women are all recipients of SPI seeds. The seeds and the Training provided by TAPA Agronomists has improved many lives and livelihoods.

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.