Media CenterGovernments, NGOs, Experts to Discuss Business Models to Get Seeds to Farmers in Developing Countries at Major Conference

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

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Tom Price
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(410) 951-7450

New Models Conference on March 1-2, in Washington, D.C.

BALTIMORE, MD, February 27, 2017 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is hosting the New Models Conference, which will bring together major seed companies, agriculture experts, university and public sector researchers, farmer cooperatives, donors and government and UN agencies to identify ways to get legume seeds to smallholder famers in remote areas.

Held on March 1-2, 2017, in Washington D.C., the conference is a result of the surprising findings of CRS’ seed survey released last year, which revealed that quality seed is not reaching smallholder farmers in the developing world.

“Seed innovation is great, but it is wasted if the seeds are not reaching farmers. New business models are needed for smallholder families,” said Dr. Louise Sperling, Senior Technical Advisor with CRS. “The New Models Conference is a real chance to make genuine strides to improve farming for smallholder farmers, the people that grow most of the world’s food. Together, with the U.S. government’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), we are very excited to welcome such an array of experts on world agriculture, from farmers to companies to academics.”

The conference is geared to be provocative and stimulate thinking on business models that deliver quality legume seeds to smallholder farmers with modest purchasing power that live in remote regions. Major investments have been made to identify and develop performing varieties of legumes in recent decades, yet less than 1 percent of legume seed comes from the formal sector, like seed companies and agro-business.

The conference builds on the findings of a CRS’ seed survey, which showed that small, family farmers in Africa obtain only 2 percent of their seed from commercial/agro-dealer sources. Smallholders regularly purchase seeds - over half of their seeds every year - in local, informal markets and from family and neighbors.  These neglected distribution channels present a major opportunity for improving access to better crop varieties that are crucial to dealing with climate change, nutrition, and other production challenges in regions where food security remains a major concern.

“Referred to as the meat of the countryside, legumes are the key protein for farmers. Access to quality seeds to smallholders in the remote areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America really can mean better food security for families,” added Dr. Sperling.

CRS is a leader in the field of agriculture and livelihoods in the developing world. CRS helps millions of smallholder farmers worldwide recover from natural disasters and civil strife, build resilient farming systems, and grow them into agro-enterprises that engage successfully with markets. Our Pathway to Prosperity approach helps farmers build sustainable livelihoods through a phase-by-phase process. CRS currently has 116 agriculture projects in 38 countries.

For commentary from Dr. Sperling contact: Tom Price, [email protected], 443 951 7245

Follow on Twitter: #nm4seeds


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.


New Models Conference on March 1-2, in Washington, D.C.  More