Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI)


SKI, the ‘Seed and Knowledge Initiative,’ operates as a distinctive partnership centered on seed and indigenous knowledge. With funding over 9 years, SKI’s network has expanded from 3 to 15 partners spanning Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This cooperative effort emphasizes agroecology within traditional knowledge systems, aiming to achieve food sovereignty, counter climate change, and bolster biodiversity through varied farming methods. The initiative focuses on empowering smallholder farmers, particularly women, through farmer-led seed systems and agroecological practices to strengthen seed, food, and nutritional security. By advocating for accessible, culturally appropriate food, SKI underscores the interconnectedness of agroecology, biodiversity, and environmental health. Its commitment lies in fostering resilience, addressing climate challenges, and promoting nutrition through equitable and fair food systems.

Have a look a SKI’s website to find more information about this initiative, its partners and publications.

Project Design

Phase One (P1): 2015–2019

During P1, SKI achieved significant progress in promoting Farmer-Led Seed Systems and introducing Agroecological Practices (AE). This phase involved direct engagement with 2976 farmers, predominantly women, and reached an estimated 15000 additional farmers indirectly. These farmers embraced AE practices, diversified their crop cultivation, and shared their knowledge through activities like field days, seed fairs, training events, and community dialogues.

The P1 evaluation highlighted various accomplishments. More farmers were actively training others, organizing seed fairs, and advocating for their needs. Increases were observed in seed saving, AE adoption, crop diversity, and knowledge-sharing. Farmers’ groups in South Africa and Zimbabwe grew stronger, fostering community confidence in traditional seed and AE practices. A coordinated approach was established with the SKI Coordination Unit, while a Community of Practice (CoP) promoted knowledge exchange and facilitated a foundation for future collaboration.

During this period, SKI facilitated numerous interventions such as training, community dialogues, seed fairs, rituals and research projects. The University of Cape Town contributed research initiatives to shift narratives surrounding seed, AE, GMOs, and research ethics. Southern African regional seminars facilitated policy discussions.

Phase Two (P2): 2019–2023

P2 aimed to bolster advocacy by focusing on farmer-led research to enhance knowledge and evidence relevant to their needs. SKI expanded its work with farmers on strengthening and amplifying Farmer-Led Seed Systems and Agroecological Practices. Despite challenging circumstances like devastating weather events and the COVID-19 pandemic, SKI contributed to improved food security in participating communities. During P2, SKI partners and farmers scaled out their skills and knowledge, reaching 26,921 farmers, although this falls short of the target of 60,000. The initiative’s achievements include increased seed security, diversity, and sustainable farming practices, evident in the average quantity of diverse crops per farmer rising from a baseline of 3.25 to 13.25. Moreover, SKI’s engagement with youth, women, and community seed banks led to increased resilience, food availability, dietary diversity, and seed diversity. The initiative’s movement-building focus saw the successful integration of agroecology and Farmer Rights advocacy through collaborations, cross-sector actions, and landscape-level projects. Throughout these endeavors, SKI continues to foster systemic change and positive impacts on farmer communities, emphasizing a holistic approach to socio-ecological resilience and equity.

SFHC achieved diverse successes:

  • Establishment of a demonstration garden and seed bank at the training & research centre.
  • Crop diversification improved local diets with cowpea, groundnuts, soybeans and bambaranuts.
  • SFHC showcased indigenous seeds at a national fair, fostering knowledge exchange.
  • Training benefited 2,800+ farmers in sustainable practices and nutrition.
  • Bokashi manure training improved soil fertility for almost 3,000 farmers.
  • Gender training promoted inclusivity at homes and communities.
  • Cooking demos diversified recipes and community connections.
  • Knowledge sharing via field days and dialogues enriched farming insights.
  • Farmer exchanges facilitated practical knowledge transfer.
  • Seed and food fairs showcased indigenous seeds to 300+ farmers.
  • Agroecology sharing enhanced sustainable practices nationally and internationally.
  • Staff learned about seed rights and visited a gene bank.
  • Collaborations with stakeholders promoted holistic approaches.

Phase Three (P3): 2023–2027

The revision of the proposal for P3 is currently underway. The proposed project phase includes the following outcomes:

  • Practicing farmers are supported to lead in spreading and promoting practice in agroecology and amplifying Farmer-Led Seed Systems
  • A stronger body of knowledge is gathered, co-created, documented and used by farming communities
  • Effective collaborative processes in place to enhance collective learning
  • SKI partner organisations and farmer organisations strengthened

Expectations & Impact: By 2027, farming communities have improved food sovereignty through resilient farmer-led seed systems and more biodiverse and multifunctional landscapes.



SKI is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.