This guide presents a seven-step method for assessing the security of farmers’ seed systems in situations of acute or chronic stress. The occasion may be a natural disaster such as a flood, drought, earthquake or insect pest invasion; or it could be a crisis of human making such as civil war, political instability or economic recession. Whatever the crisis or stress, the guide serves as a practical field manual for donor agencies, government ministries, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals charged with agricultural relief and recovery, including those with little or no expertise in seed systems.
This guide has been designed as a project-level analytical tool, that is, for assessing conditions in a specific, spatially defined zone of action. It is intended for a team that wants not only to ‘find out’ (assess) what’s going on, but also to implement a project in a targeted and effective manner. Some of the tasks outlined in the guide are desk-based; others require field-based data gathering. Parts of the guide can also be used as preparatory tools. For example, building profiles of local crop and seed systems (Step 2) can be done beforehand, particularly in zones of chronic stress where emergencies may be ‘near-predictable’ and relief measures repetitive. Probing for chronic stresses (Step 6) can likewise make humanitarian workers ready for swift and appropriate action. Such preparatory work represents a good ‘knowledge investment’.
Ideally, the full Seed System Security Assessment (SSSA) should be done before any intervention. Depending on the size and heterogeneity of a zone, the field assessment can be conducted in three to ten days, or sometimes longer if the zone is particularly vast and varied. However, a late assessment is definitely better than none at all. Some components of the SSSA, such as Step 6, can easily be conducted as an intervention unfolds. An SSSA can even be carried out at the end of the cropping season – to see the effects of implementation and to gather base material needed to prepare a response for the next crisis.