Seed Systems - Smallholder engagement

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Smallholder Engagement in Seed Systems:

From Field Practice to Science

NOTE: this course was held in January 2023.

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There is a worldwide need to offer critical thinking about and training in participatory breeding and seed system concepts to stimulate and improve the role that local stakeholders play in the development of seed systems that contribute to the sustainability of food production. This course is the follow-up of and will build on the earlier postgraduate course 'Participatory Plant Breeding and Resilient Seed Systems'* that also focused on smallholder engagement in plant breeding and seed system development.

The overall outcome of the course should contribute to a research and development practice agenda that addresses inter/transdisciplinary research challenges and to potential improvements for the real-life cases that are presented during the group work.

Key aspects of this course include:

  • Concepts, strategies, methods and experiences with decentralised and participatory approaches to plant breeding and seed system development to contribute to agrobiodiversity, inclusivity and cope with climate changes
  • Specific approaches for different crop types and socio-economic contexts
  • Governance issues such as seed quality control, property rights, co-ownership and benefit sharing
  • Multi-actor approaches, collaborative learning, knowledge sharing and networking approaches to engage food system and value chain actors into participatory plant breeding and resilient seed system programs
  • The interaction of technical solutions and social choices: considering trade-offs and issues of inclusion/social equity and other values
  • Interactions between the social and natural (interdisciplinarity), science and practice (transdisciplinarity)

* Presentations and resources from the earlier course Participatory Plant Breeding and Resilient Seed Systems are available here (December 2020)

Preliminary programme

The course will start on Sunday 22 January at 16:00hr with a keynote address that gives a bird's-eye view of participatory plant breeding and seed systems, followed by a poster carousel. Monday to Thursday the morning will consist of a combination of lectures and post-lecture discussions. Afternoons are spent on group work that focuses on documented real-life cases from Mali, Vietnam, China, Uganda, Zambia and Nepal.

Monday 23 January - Participatory Plant Breeding Experiences

  • Eva Weltzien/Fred Rattunde (University of Wisconsin-Madison/GAFF)
  • Edith Lammerts van Bueren (WUR)

Tuesday 24 January - Seed production and distribution

  • Conny Almekinders/Frederik van Oudenhoven (WUR, RTB Africa)
  • Paul Struik/Israel Navarette (WUR, Centro Internacional de la Papa)
  • Fleur Kilwinger (WUR)

Wednesday 25 January - Governance of variety development and seed systems

  • Ola Westengen (Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU)
  • Bram de Jonge (WUR/Oxfam)

Thursday 26 January -  Agrobiodiversity and farmer seed production

  • Reflections on the different functions and challenges of diversity in breeding and seed systems (discussion).
  • Implications for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research (discussion) 
  • Stef de Haan (Centro Internacional de la Papa)
  • Symposium 'Seed Systems of the Future' in Wageningen

Friday  - Presentations of group work

Specific questions for group work are:

  • How do smallholder farmers access new varieties with desired traits and early generation seed?
  • How do they deliver seed to fellow-farmers and other clients, what are sustainable (business) models?
  • How can the variety development and seed production for such individuals and groups of farmers be governed?
  • How can smallholder seed production serve additional goals e.g. maintaining diversity, inclusiveness?
Workshop Organisers

The course is organised under the auspices of the Graduate School Production Ecology and Resource Conservation, Wageningen University and Oxfam SD=HS.

General information
Target Group The course is meant for PhD’s, postdocs and people with an academic background working in the field of plant breeding and seed systems. Participants are expected to be present at the course venue for the duration of the course. Only those participants who join the full program, including the group work assignments, will receive a certificate. Accommodation and food are included in the course fee.
Group Size Min. 20, max. 40 participants
Course duration 5 days
Language of instruction English
Number of credits 2 ECTS (only those participants who join the full programme, including the group work assignments, will receive a certificate).
Prior knowledge Basic knowledge about plant breeding and/or seed systems is recommendable.
Location De Bosrand, Ede, the Netherlands
More information

Miriam van Heist
Phone: +31 (0) 628521546

Claudius van de Vijver (PE&RC)
Phone: +31 (0) 317 485116



At this moment, this course is not scheduled yet. However, if you register your interest in this activity below, we will inform you as soon as the course is scheduled and registration of participation is opened.