Strengthening Agro-biodiversity in Southern Africa

Project completed

The project promotes seed diversity and agro-ecological practices through an inclusive, evidence-based dialogue with governments at regional and country levels by empowered farmer’s and farmer support organizations ensuring that their experiences are taken into account in the development of policies and programmes in agriculture. This will thus strengthen food security in Southern Africa.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Agriculture & food security
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Agricultural policy
01.09.2016 - 31.08.2019
CHF  1’050’000

Agro-biodiversity and healthy agro-ecological systems are vital for livelihoods: together they enhance food security, strengthen social cohesion, and build climate resilience. This is relevant in most countries of Africa in general, and more specifically southern Africa where a majority of the resource-poor population is practicing subsistence farming.

In Southern Africa, national governments and their constituencies often do not master the terms of the debate that many call for around issues of biodiversity, farmers’rights and trade issues in relation to plant genetic resources for food.

In the rare event consultative processes are organized, government representatives, small-scale farmers and farmer support organizations are frequently denied a voice. Yet, the impact that pieces of legislation currently on the drafting board are likely to have on small-scale farmers and the economies they support is a matter of concern.


To promote seed diversity and agro-ecological practices in order to strengthen food security in Southern Africa

Target groups

The project tragets the following groups:

  • Small-scale farmer organizations and farmer support associations in the SADC region
  • National governments in the regional as well as regional entities (SADC, EAC, COMESA)
  • Resource-poor farmers, particularly women and youth
Medium-term outcomes

The project has three outcomes:

  1. Biosafety is secured in Southern Africa;
  2. Agricultural biodiversity is secured in Southern Africa; and
  3. Alternatives to corporate expansion in Southern African agriculture are available to smallholder farmers.



Expected results:  

Southern African CSOs have responded effectively to seed laws and policies;

Participatory research and learning to build evidence and advocate for farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS) is operational; and

Policies and programmes that protect, support and strengthen FMSS are in place or on government agenda.

Results from previous phases:  

The key results from the previous phase include:

  • Building awareness among CSOs in the region on seed laws, intellectual property and farmers’ rights and supporting their participation to policy processes
  • Participating and challenging the SADC draft plant variety protection protocol that finally recognized farmers’ rights by inserting a clause on disclosure of origin;
  • Establishing a seed platform in Zimbabwe that works on strengthening community based seed systems
  • Construction of enduring country-level field research partnerships, which will be pivotal in the participatory research planned for in this current phase; and
  • Facilitating information sharing and movement building on the continent on the issues of seed, agro-ecology and biosafety.

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

Coordination with other projects and actors

Bioversity International, International Institute for Sustainable Development, AFSA (Africa), ESAFF (East and Southern Africa), CTDT (Zimbabwe), MVIWATA (Tanzania), NASFAM (Malawi), UNAC (Mozambique), Biowatch (South Africa)

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    1’050’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    1’097’714
Project phases Phase 3 01.09.2019 - 30.06.2024   (Completed)

Phase 2 01.09.2016 - 31.08.2019   (Completed)

Phase 1 01.07.2013 - 31.08.2016   (Completed)