Strengthening Agro-biodiversity in Southern Africa (SASA)

While governments have regional and national seed policies favourable to commercial certified seed

production, these are restrictive on farmers’ seed systems that are diverse and resilient. The project

capitalises on Swiss regional experiences on supporting seed systems in Southern Africa. This will include

the empowerment of civil society, farmers’ organisations and governments in developing inclusive agricultural

policies that ultimately contribute to sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and improved well-being of

smallholder farming communities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural policy
Agricultural research
01.09.2019 - 31.08.2023
CHF  1’550’000

Agricultural biodiversity is diminishing at an

unprecedented rate, putting the future of food,

livelihoods, health and environment at great risk.

Regional and national legal and policy frameworks

and processes on seed have been developed in the

region to be favourable to commercial seed

production. Their framing however restrict farmers’

rights to freely use their diverse and adapted seed

varieties and impacts directly on women who rely on

own seed sources for diversified food and nutrition.

Given the effects of climate change, depleted soils

and recurrent food insecurity, the need for ensuring

agricultural biodiversity and farmers’ access to

diversified quality seed from formal and informal

sources becomes more urgent.

Objectives Established agricultural policies in Southern Africa that meet farmers’ rights, diversifies farmers’ seed systems and contribute to sustainable maintenance and use of agricultural biodiversity.
Target groups Target groups are smallholder farmers, including women and youth, and CSOs including farmer associations in Southern Africa. 75+ CSOs are targeted to be involved directly in planned activities; with national nodal points in active networks in 8+ countries in Southern Africa. This work will focus on SADC Secretariat at regional level and in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho and South Africa at a country level.
Medium-term outcomes Exemptions in regional and national seed laws are adequate to allow for the unimpeded development and support of farmer seed systems and securing of farmers’ rights. * Political and policy processes under way at national and regional levels in support to alternatives in farmer seed systems, farmers’ rights and agricultural biodiversity. * Rapid response enabled for Civil Society Organisation network members to new policy and political processes, legislative and regulatory initiatives related to seed laws and farmer seed systems.

Expected results:   Research and analysis on Plant Variety Protection, seed laws and policies and farmers’ seed systems conducted to empower CSOs, farmer organisations and government representatives in policy development. -75+ CSO / farmers’ organisations empowered to participate in seed laws and policies development at regional and national levels. -Smallholder farmer-friendly proposals are included in seed and plant variety protection policies, laws and regulations. -60+ CSO female-led and farmers’ organisations have increased advocacy competencies and develop alternatives to corporate agriculture expansion in Southern Africa.

Results from previous phases:  

-Regional seed laws and protocols were developed

to cater for the needs of smallholder farmers. In

particular: Insertion of safeguards against biopiracy and

reuse of farm saved seed in the SADC Plant

Variety Protection Protocol;  National level veto powers around variety

registration when implementing the African

Intellectual Property Protocol;

South Africa and Malawi draft bills factored in

exemptions to allow farmers to continue saving

and exchanging their seeds;

Participatory evaluation of germplasm in Zambia has

resulted in identification of preferred farmers’ crop

varieties to be registered in the official national

variety register.

Alternatives have been developed for transitioning

from hybrid maize varieties and synthetic fertilizer

based farm input subsidies to diversified seed


Through the rapid response fund,630 individuals

from 118 CSOs and government entities were

supported to participate in last minute decision-

making processes on national and regional seed

laws and plant variety protection.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
International or foreign NGO

Other partners
African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)
Coordination with other projects and actors Development Fund of Norway, Biodiversity International, Zambia Alliance for Agroecology & Biodiversity, La Via Campesina, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, APBREBES and Third World Network. There are synergies with SDC funded projects on agriculture and seed systems such as SKI and the Social Accountability project.
Estimated operational start of intervention:

Main credit Phase 1: September 2016

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    1’550’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    1’033’096
Project phases Phase 3 01.09.2019 - 31.08.2023   (Current phase) Phase 2 01.09.2016 - 31.08.2019   (Completed) Phase 1 01.07.2013 - 31.08.2016   (Completed)