New grant to improve quality seed access in sub-Saharan Africa

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University seed scientists will partner with regional and national organizations in Malawi, Zambia and Nigeria to conduct a pilot study in Africa on enabling better access to improved seed varieties with the help of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Seed Policy Enhancement in African Regions (SPEAR) project is funded by a $1.45 million three-year grant. As part of the grant, Iowa State University scientists will work to advance harmonization policies into actionable reality in western and southern Africa. They will improve varietal evaluations and timely releases of candidate seed varieties.

"As the project progresses, seed will be provided to companies on a timely and equitable basis," said Seed Science Center Global Seed Program Leader Joe Cortes. "Seed production contracts will be initiated, and regional and international seed companies will begin working with the existing seed companies in the area. In the end, licensing contracts will result, and smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa will have access to increased varieties of high-quality seed."

"The SPEAR project speaks to what we are about here at the center - providing quality seed to the world," said Seed Science Center Director Manjit Misra, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. "We are proud to be a part of this project that can truly enhance the sustainability of smallholder farmers in Africa who currently face limited resources."

The Seed Science Center at Iowa State University houses the largest comprehensive public seed laboratory in the world. In the past 12 years, the center's Global Seed Program has conducted international projects on seed policy and regulations in more than 70 countries around the world. Currently the program has ongoing projects in 30 countries. For more information about the Seed Science Center at Iowa State University, visit