Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Not All Seed Is Declared Equal: Improving Access

Feb 28, 2017


Seed is the single most important agricultural input of crop production, but not all seed is equally accessible and/or available. Agrilinks, Microlinks, and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance held a special event where experts addressed how Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) might be able to close some of the gaps by offering a range of crop and seed varieties critical to climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive agriculture. 

Many small-scale farmers cannot afford to get large quantities of expensive certified seed and Quality Declared Seeds could provide an impact-oriented alternative. Produced by registered, trained, small-scale farmers or farmer groups, QDS can be an efficient way to expand smallholder farmer access to diverse seed varieties. 

The event explored global seed quality regulations and trends with key examples and case studies from Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi. Participants had the opportunity to engage in and discuss:

  • The benefits of multiple seed certification systems and how the quality of QDS compares to other seed classes
  • What country-level policies are needed for Quality Declared Seeds to be adopted, produced, and traded
  • The financial costs and benefits of QDS


Niels Louwaars
Niels Louwaars

Niels LouwaarsNiels Louwaars is Director of Plantum, the association of

Niels Louwaarscompanies in the Netherlands dealing with plant reproductive materials. Trained as a plant breeder at Wageningen University, he spent about 10 years in Asia and Africa working in seed projects before returning to Wageningen University, where he worked for 20 years in different positions addressing international cooperation and research. Based on that international experience, he developed the concept of Integrated Seed Sector Development, providing policy space for a variety of formal and informal seed systems. He has assisted several countries and institutions such as the World Bank and FAO in designing their policies in this area. In Wageningen he was also manager of a major international interdisciplinary program and represented the organization in the CGIAR. He was also a member of the Plant Breeder’s Rights chamber of the district court in The Hague. Currently he represents the Netherlands seed sector nationally and internationally.

Astrid Mastenbroek
Astrid Mastenbroek
Integrated Seed Sector Development Project

Astrid MastenbroekAstrid Mastenbroek works for Wageningen University

Astrid Mastenbroek – Centre for Development Innovation (CDI). For the last four years, she has been Chief of Party for the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) project in Uganda. She has been working in the region since 2005 initially working for ZOA in South Sudan and later in Northern Uganda. She also worked briefly in Kenya and Somaliland in 2012, after which she returned to Uganda to start the ISSD Uganda project. Astrid has a master's degree in irrigation and water management from Wageningen University and a MSc in agricultural economics from School of Oriental and African Studies at London University. Her areas of expertise include seed systems, seed policy, and seed demand economics. She has a keen interest in understanding seed purchase decisions by farmers.

Latha Nagarajan
Latha Nagarajan
International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC)

Latha NagarajanLatha Nagarajan is a Senior Economist at the International Fertilizer Deve

Latha Nagarajanlopment Center (IFDC) based in Washington, DC. Latha works primarily on issues related to agricultural input markets, technology adoption and impact assessment. Latha has extensive field experience studying seed systems and markets in South Asia and Africa. She is part of the Rutgers Policy Impact Consortium with a research focus on seed policy. Previously Latha worked at Rutgers and IFPRI, and earned her PhD in applied economics at the University of Minnesota.

Louise Sperling
Louise Sperling (Moderator)
Catholic Relief Services

Louise SperlingLouise Sperling is a Senior Technical Advisor at Catholi

Louise Sperlingc Relief Services focusing on more vulnerable populations. She has managed and technically backstopped programs in 30+ countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In terms of seed systems, Sperling’s work encompasses "normal" smallholder farmer systems as well as high stress ones: e.g., she led assessment missions after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, post-earthquake in Haiti, and pre-Referendum South Sudan. She has co-/authored over 100 articles.