Gates Foundation Awards $1.45 Million to Improve Access to Quality Seeds in Africa

Iowa State University has announced a three-year, $1.45 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a pilot study in Africa that will explore ways to provide better access to improved seed varieties.

ISU seed scientists will partner with regional and national organizations in Malawi, Zambia, and Nigeria on the Seed Policy Enhancement in African Regions (SPEAR) project to advance more effective seed policies in western and southern Africa. SPEAR aims to improve varietal evaluations and timely releases of candidate seed varieties.

According to ISU's Seed Science Center, seed developed through SPEAR will be provided to companies on a timely and equitable basis. Regional and international seed firms will begin working with existing seed companies in the pilot countries and eventually will develop licensing contracts that provide smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with access to improved 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. "We are proud to be a part of this project that can truly enhance the sustainability of smallholder farmers in Africa who face limited resources."

"New Grant to Improve Quality Seed Access in Sub-Saharan Africa." Iowa State University Press Release 10/13/2010.