Community Seed Banks and the Community Based Agrobiodiversity Management (CBAM) Malawi

About the publication

  • Published: October 2016
  • Series: --
  • Type: NGO reviews
  • Carried out by: Ola Tveitereid Westengen Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
  • Commissioned by: --
  • Country: Malawi
  • Theme: Natural resources (including oil)
  • Pages: 34
  • Serial number: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organization: Utviklingsfondet
  • Local partner: Biodiversity Conservation Institute (BCI)
  • Project number: 11614
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.


The Development Fund (DF) has been supporting a project on Community Based Agrobiodiversity Management (CBAM) in the northern region of Malawi. CBAM project is part of DF’s global program on Agrobiodiversity and Climate Change (ABC) that aims at contributing to sustainable climate adaptation among farmers and pastoralists.

As this phase of the project is coming to an end and future support is planned DF needed to get an independent report on the results of the program.

There is limted scholary litterature on Community Seed Banks (CSBs) and their performance. Most of what is writen is written by development actors supporting CSBs and it is not published in the peer-reviewed litterature.  We therefore have limited empirical evidence on the impact of CSBs on higher level indicators like food security and adaptive capacity.


The purpose of the evaluation was to provide The Development Fund of Norway with sufficient information to make an informed judgement about the performance of the Community Based Agrobiodiversity Management (CBAM) project and the recommended way forward for the implementation and follow-up of this project.

The evaluation concentrated on the activities and results during the period 2012 to the time of evaluation (August 2016). The main focus of the evaluated project was CBS, and the evaluation convers activities of the user groups, BCI and DF. Methodology: The evaluator applied a mixed methodology of desk review, review of quantitative data, and qualitative research methods.

The consultant conducted interviews with relevant staff of the Development Fund in Oslo and Malawi country office, key external stakeholders including the Norwegian Embassy in Lilongwe) and collaborating NGOs (CEPA, FyF and Mzuzu ADD) and government organizations (NPGRC/DARS) in Malawi. He also conducted field visit and data collection at CSB sites/interviews with target groups and BCI staff; ground observations.

Key findings

The overall conclusion of the evaluation is that CSBs represent a valuable effort to increase community seed security in the current Malawian agricultural development context. The CSBs provide an alternative pathway to the seed system promoted through seed subsidy programmes and commercial seed actors that may lead to increased homogenization of the seed sector and agricultural production.

The report finds that CSBs have increased access to and knowledge about alternative varieties and crops. Furthermore, it finds the functioning of the CSBs satisfactorily, considering their short period of existence (only 3 seasons).

However, the evaluation points out that the project appears to be too broad in scope given the human, organisational and financial resources involved.


The main recommendation of the report is more focus on som specific intervention..BCI are currently spreading its resources too thin by pursuing youth involvement, training in marketing, gender perspectives and climate change adaptation planning.

These are all important aspects, but given the slim staff of BCI and the organization’s core competence alternative organisation models should be considered. Furthermore, also within its “seed focus” should BCI focus more on seed security (the multiplication scheme) than on the conservation function.

The conservation function might have overshadowed the seed security focus when BCI now plans to expand to make a network of national seed banks focusing on one crop per bank in “centres of diversity”: “plans are underway to construct CSB in districts where non existed before e.g. in Mzimba (targeting Bambara nut, Salima (targeting Cowpea), Zomba (targeting Pigeon pea)”  The logic of focusing on one “mandate crop” makes sense from the conservation perspective, but not from the seed security perspective.

DF’s comment and use of the evaluation

DF finds that the evaluation encouraging and give valuable input to a new phase of the project. The recommendations have been discussed with BCI and has been incorporated in the plans for the new phase starting in 2017.

Published 29.08.2017
Last updated 29.08.2017