The Seed and Knowledge Initiative

Building on past and on-going joint activities, a synergistic relationship between two NGOs, Biowatch South Africa, and the Earthlore Foundation and the University of Cape Town’s Bio-economy Research Chair has been galvanised into a long-term collaboration on seed and knowledge systems. The primary aim of the Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) is to revive and enhance traditional seed and knowledge systems and to deepen understanding about their functioning, within the context of supportive agricultural, cultural and ecological practices.

The initiative’s vision is to collaborate with communities, researchers, NGOs, policy-makers and other national and regional partners towards a future where small-holder farmers are empowered to secure seed and food sovereignty on all levels. Originally focused on South Africa, SKI has extended its activities into the region, working in countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.

Its focus includes the following inter-related objectives:

  • Enabling farmers and communities to revive and enhance traditional seed and agricultural knowledge systems.
  • Strengthening networks on seed and agro-ecology.
  • Influencing decision-makers to support evidence-based positions that strengthen seed diversity and local control of seed.
  • Promoting socially responsive research on seed and knowledge systems.

The Bio-economy Chair brings research and policy expertise to the collaboration as well as a track record of working on issues relating to traditional knowledge, biodiversity and social justice, with an active hub of postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows developing around this theme. The initiative also brings together a range of tertiary research institutions from South Africa and the region, with the aim of building a research platform that stimulates critical thinking on these issues, grooming a new generation of researchers, and advocating for research approaches that benefit smallholder farmers and target their needs.

The Seed and Knowledge Initiative is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Southern Africa (SDC), Oxfam, IDEX, the Global Environment Fund of the United Nations, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Mama Cash, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation’s South African Research Chairs Initiative.

Participants at the third SEED AND KNOWLEDGE SEMINAR that took place at Salt Rock, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in September 2016, published a statement emerging from their discussions, see below.

Project Partners:



Supported by: