Seed Programs International

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.

droughtThe Horn of Africa has always included arid regions that are drought-prone. Droughts come and go with El Niño weather patterns; local people adapt and develop centuries-old strategies to persist through crisis. East Africans are survivors. But things are different now. The drought experienced in 2016-2017 is unprecedented -- many have died, 800,000 children under 5 are severely undernourished, and the lives of 20 million people are threatened. The other difference now is our media environment. Those of us old enough to remember the 1984-1985 drought will recall it was the year’s biggest news story, We are the World was a #1 pop hit, and donations were generous. Today, news cycles are so short and information flow so overwhelming that only 15% of Americans are even aware that this famine event exists. We encourage you to read the links shared here and tell others via social media or via good old-fashioned conversation.

A community garden organized by GrowEastAfrica.

If you’re moved to help, consider supporting SPI. We work to provide drought-smart gardens that support community-led drought recovery in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and Somalia.

You can read about some of our work with diasporan-led SPI partner GrowEastAfrica, who focuses on the Burji District of Southern Ethiopia.

Read about GrowEastAfrica’s work in the Burji District of Southern Ethiopia →


Our partner Pop Atz’iaq has taken the lead on the processes of mobilizing our women’s groups, field work, documentation, and addressing the many challenges faced by women in San Cristobal and the near by villages, and our original women’s group in Chajul.

Pop Atz’iaq's strength lies in their ability to help women recognize their skills, experience, and capacities. SPI’s partnership with Pop Atz’iaq makes it possible for participating women to receive training and access to resources for gardening, handicraft production, and business training for women who have the desire to start or improve their businesses. Business training includes human development and women’s empowerment themes, business management, marketing, finances, accounting, sales, customer service and social responsibility to their culture and communities.

Rouse Ramirez helps organize an Ixil community of women in Chajul, Guatemala
Rouse Ramirez helps organize an Ixil community of women in Chajul, Guatemala

When we discuss SPI programs, we talk a lot about livelihoods. So, what is a livelihood? A livelihood encompasses the capabilities, assets, and strategies that people use to make a living. And a productive livelihood is an important part of our social, emotional, and economic well-being. Productive, successful livelihoods require access to resources. When it comes to women’s agricultural livelihoods, we know that female farmers produce more than half the developing world's food, yet they own less than 2% of the land and have significantly less access to the tools they need for success — inputs like seeds, tools, and knowledge.

At their core, SPI programs provide access to resources so people can grow food and establish a productive livelihood. We join with women's gardening efforts in the most impoverished countries worldwide by providing top-quality vegetable seeds and locally-driven support through programs that provide them with a path to empowerment, income, and nutrition.

We work to develop and support these paths because we recognize the powerful potential of communities and their members to create a hunger-free future when given the chance. It is the community members, not SPI, who drive social change to adopt these pathways. Our programs are partnerships that rely upon the expertise and direction of local leaders; this is one way we ensure that our investment is mutual and will continue long after we are no longer involved.

One such partnership is our women’s empowerment initiative in Chajul, Guatemala. Tucked away in the highlands of western Guatemala, the small but vibrant Ixil community of Chajul was devastated by a 36-year civil war. Many indigenous Guatemalan women who survived the horrific violence are living with the trauma of losing family members, friends, and neighbors — just one legacy of the country’s civil war.

SPI’s gardening program in Chajul provides resources and training for women to create and maintain backyard gardens. Gardening provides opportunities for these women to participate in the restoration and strengthening of their local economy, and simultaneously provides fresh, nutritious vegetables for their families. Gardening also provides an ideal space for psychosocial recovery from the ongoing trauma of war. In other words, this partnership program offers all the right components for a successful and productive livelihood.

“The biggest benefit from the garden is that families get to eat fresh vegetables at home that are full of nutrients.” — Rouse Ramirez, Chajul Area Program Coordinator

Limited access to resources is not the only barrier to livelihoods. Illiteracy is a significant hurdle for most participants. It prevents them from advocating for themselves or gaining access to key resources, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Many of the women are the main source of livelihood for their families, but limited access to information and key resources hinders their efforts to fortify their livelihoods.

With the help of our in-country Program Coordinator, Rouse Ramirez, women in the Chajul area are organizing themselves to support each other and overcome these common barriers. Rouse visits with women in their homes to ensure they don’t fall behind or miss out on group activities due to family obligations. When a group member isn’t able to access a community resource, Rouse brings the access to her! This community is a compelling model of women empowering women, and themselves.

While women in this community don’t have easy access to literacy and other education, they are beginning to partner with other women’s groups to exchange for access to education and vocational training. Mothers in the group share the dream that their children will have the educational opportunities they did not, and together they are realizing that dream. We’ll share more about this program as it develops. If their work is inspiring to you, I hope you’ll consider supporting our work with them.

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.