Skip to content

Seeds for Resilience

Start year: 2019

Strengthening Genebanks in Sub-Saharan Africa

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face the combined threats of climate change, degraded agricultural lands and a growing population. They will need more resilient, productive and nutritious crops to meet these challenges. Unfortunately, crop diversity—which offers the raw materials for crop innovation—is being lost at unprecedented rates. 

Equally concerning is that the collections of seeds currently held in the participating national genebanks are also at grave risk. For years, the genebanks have suffered from insufficient staffing and low levels of funding. 

The Seeds for Resilience project is providing the financial and technical support to ensure these five national genebanks will reach the necessary international standards to ensure their collections will be safe and widely available, long term.

Supporting Genebanks to Become World-Class Operations

The project will upgrade genebank equipment and improve internal processes and increase staff technical capacity. In addition, it will ensure that collections are safely backed up, data on seed samples are well documented and samples from seed collections are shared according to agreed international rules.

Seeds for Resilience will also ensure the work of each genebank is user-driven, meaning the seeds most useful to farmers and researchers will be prioritized. Thousands of important plant samples will be shared with farmers and other users through participatory trials, where they can select the seeds best suited for their local conditions and needs. 

Sowing the Seeds of Change Beyond Borders

Ultimately, this partnership will benefit the researchers and plant breeders working to improve key crops for regional food security and the farmers who rely on these crops, the majority of whom are women. 

The increased international availability of these seeds and the development of climate-resilient crop varieties are expected to benefit farming households and their communities far beyond the partner countries and the duration of the project.

nora castaneda headshot

National genebanks are integral to the future development of agriculture of each country. They provide scientists and farmers with the raw material needed to breed improved crops, which are more resilient to drought and high temperatures, and more nutritious and productive than those currently grown.

Nora Castañeda Seeds for Resilience Project Manager

Anja was a colleague and friend to many. Her collaborative spirit, appreciation of beauty, and indomitable courage will continue to inspire family, friends, and colleagues throughout the world. Her experiences in addressing how natural science research processes need to be organized to effectively contribute toward goals such as sustainability, food, and nutrition security or gender equity and her practical expertise in the organization of multi-stakeholder cooperation and learning were greatly valued by the Crop Trust’s Seed for Resilience Project. 

She supported the five African genebanks in developing and implementing their strategies for germplasm user engagement. Her advice and encouragement of all project partners to explore new ways of working and collaborating with the creators of the genetic diversity that the genebanks conserve will be deeply missed. 

Anja’s doctoral research in Rajasthan, India, introduced her to social science methodologies, after working as an agronomist in Ecuador and Germany. At the same time, she introduced her team of plant breeder colleagues to the power of collaboration across disciplines. The issue of social difference (for example, gender) and how it influences activities, outcomes, and efficiency of research projects in relation to their goals has been a core issue of her work, as a researcher and consultant. 

Her part-time association with the German Institute for Tropical and Sub-tropical Agriculture of the University of Kassel provided her the opportunity to continue working on these issues with students and other researchers while conceptualizing her practical expertise in organizing multi-actor approaches, stakeholder involvement, and gender-sensitive research at the scientific level. With her special gift and skills as a writer, these concepts and their applications to seed systems management and other complex multi-actor processes in agriculture were published and are widely used.

One thematic focus of her work was plant breeding, seed system development, and agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use. She supported plant breeding programs with insightful evaluations; she contributed to expert consultation processes for government bodies, and their implementing agencies, at national, European and international levels. She most recently supported the Secretariat on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, at FAO, on the implementation options for its farmers’ rights articles.


  • Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI)

  • Genetic Resources Research Institute (GeRRI) at the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)

  • National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB)

  • National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC) at the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute

  • Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute (PGRRI) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)


  • Federal Government of Germany (BMZ), through the German Development Bank (KfW) 
Scroll to top