Food Security and Nutrition Network

Seed Security Responses that Help Farmers in Chronic Stress Contexts

Event Details
Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 9:00am to 1:00pm
Save the Children, 899 North Capitol St. NE, Ste. 900, Washington, DC 20002

The TOPS Program hosted Louise Sperling, Senior Technical Advisor at Catholic Relief Services, and Julie March, Agriculture and Food Security Advisor at USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, to share practical insights for reinforcing the seed security of smallholder farmers, with a particular focus on Africa. At this participatory event, we reviewed the latest tools available for identifying diverse seed security constraints and shared on-the-ground implementation responses to address common resilience and nutrition constraints (e.g., diversity and nutrition fairs, vegetable seed interventions, and small seed pack outlets). 

To learn more about seed security responses, visit

Event Resources

  • Speaker Introductions - The introductions and agenda overview.
  • Overview and What is Seed? - Louise Sperling provides an overview of the seed systems that farmers use and what the data are telling us.
  • Matching Responses to Specific Problems - Julie March and Louise Sperling share the What is Seed Security? video, and talk about matching seed security problems with appropriate responses.
  • DiNERs - Louise Sperling talks about Diversity in Nutrition and Enhanced Resilience fairs, a seed security response in a chronic stress context.
  • Vegetable Seeds in Emergencies - Julie March talks about the use of vegetable seed responses in emergency contexts, such as in IDP camps.
  • Closing - Louise Sperling closes with the benefits of small packs and opportunities for moving forward.



Facilitator Biographies



Louise Sperling is a Senior Technical Advisor at Catholic Relief Services focusing on more vulnerable populations. She has managed and technically backstopped programs in 30+ countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In terms of seed systems, Sperling’s work encompasses ‘normal’ smallholder farmer systems as well as high stress ones: e.g., she led assessment missions after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, post-earthquake in Haiti, and pre-Referendum South Sudan.  She has co/-authored over 100 articles, inter alia: Seed systems farmers use (Food Security 2016); Making seed systems more resilient (Global Environmental Change 2013); Understanding and strengthening informal seed markets (Experimental Agriculture 2010: Sperling and McGuire); and Moving towards more effective seed aid (Journal of Development Studies 2008). A new website, shares practical and policy advice for those supporting smallholder farmer seed systems in crisis, chronic stress and developmental periods.


Julie March is the Agriculture and Livelihoods Team Lead for the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). With an academic and practical focus on agricultural, ecological and farming systems, she has supported the integration of systems thinking into disaster response, recovery and resilience programs. At USAID/OFDA, her work has encouraged research and programming to determine best practices in disasters to support design of interventions that contribute to sustainable systems.



Please contact Abby Love, Agriculture Officer for The TOPS Program, at