About us

Where it all began

Who are We?

The Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) is a dynamic partnership of diverse southern African organisations committed to securing food sovereignty in the region. We work with smallholder farmers to become more seed, food and nutritionally secure through farmer-led seed systems, improved crop diversity, and the revival of local knowledge systems. While we have relationships with a number of organisations and individuals all over the world, our primary stakeholders are the farmers we work with in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The initiative started in 2013 and has since grown to include 15 partner organisations across those four Southern African countries.

Where it all began

SKI - What’s in a Name?

Seed (n) the germ or propagative source of anything. Synonyms: beginning, source

As SKI partners, we know that seed is the beginning of life and is also the symbol of renewal and of the beginnings of things new. We believe that seed sovereignty is the basis of food sovereignty.

Knowledge (n) a body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time. Synonyms: ability, awareness, insight, know-how; wisdom.

Transformation and democratization of knowledge is urgent and requires a radical shift away from top-down research and policy making to a system where new knowledge is co-created and local knowledge systems are honored and owned.

Initiative (n) An act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something; an introductory act or step; leading action. Synonyms: enterprise,

SKI initiates spaces for learning and innovation towards change. Rather than presenting a one size fits all solution from outside, SKI partners collaborate to build on what they do well and jointly create something new.

Where it all began

The Story of SKI

The Seed and Knowledge Initiative [SKI] is a partnership created in 2013 as three South African organisations – Biowatch South Africa, the EarthLore Foundation, and the NRF Bio-economy Research Chair, at the University of Cape Town (UCT),  initiated a programme that would aim to reverse the environmental degradation and human health toll caused by industrial agriculture while fostering the resilience of smallholder farming systems, especially in the context of climate change and related natural disasters. SKI developed a particular focus on strengthening community based seed systems and promoting agroecology.

However, SKI’s story of origin predates the official start in 2013. Our genesis is rooted in the experience, thinking, and hard work of many others across the region and the world, and is steeped in the indigenous knowledge of those we work with most closely – smallholder farmers of MalawiSouth AfricaZambia and Zimbabwe.

SKI has its roots in the work of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), a network that pioneered the revival of our connection to the earth and our culture.

ABN in turn has its roots in the pioneering work of organisations such as the Gaia FoundationGRAINBiowatchPELUMESAFF and many others.

Together many of these networks and organisations gave birth to AFSA, the regional Alliance we as Africans, are proud to call our own.

Where it all began

Movement for Food Sovereignty

SKI partners see themselves as part of the global and regional movement for food sovereignty and climate justice that has emerged in response to the inability of governments to respond to the crises of our times. For SKI partners their contribution to movement building is a key strategy for creating long-term systemic change that mobilises communities, decision makers, resources and public perception. For SKI to be authentic in its contribution to movement building and to create sustainable social impact, it must create space for the grassroots to emerge and support the development of leadership in developing and implementing solutions.