Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Bioversity International's 'Seeds for Needs' initiative works with farmers to research how agricultural biodiversity can help minimize the risks associated with climate change. The concept is simple – if farmers have better information and access to a wide range of varieties, they are more able to choose what best suits their conditions and cope with unpredictable weather.

Seeds for Needs is trying to encourage this by:

  • exposing farmer to more crop varieties and increase their first-hand knowledge about different traits and options available
  • strengthening their seed systems and seed-saving capacity so that they always have access to planting material that fits their changing needs.

Key breakthroughs

  • Farmers in Bihar, India. Credit: Bioversity International/C. ZanzanainiIn Ethiopia, >20% of the traditional Ethiopian varieties performed better than commercial varieties bred specifically for drought resistance, one variety yielded 61% better than the best commercial variety
  • In India, partnerships and word-of-mouth has increased participation from 30 to 15,000 farmers in just 3 years
  • In Central America, our crowdsourcing approach is estimated to be up to 78% more cost-effective than conventional participatory varietal selection


'Seeds for Needs' conducts field trials with farmers to evaluate the performance of crop varieties that have been pre-selected through geospatial analysis (GIS). The favourites (usually around 20 varieties) are then blind-tested by farmers through a crowdsourcing approach, where each farmer evaluates 3 randomly-assigned varieties on their own farm. The initiative now involves around 25,000 farmers worldwide. 

Where we work

Seeds for Needs started in Ethiopia in 2009, and was one of the winning projects of the World Bank's Development Marketplace award in the same year.

We now have project sites in 11 countries:

  • Cambodia: rice, sweet potato
  • Colombia: beans
  • Ethiopia: barley, wheat (read the impact brief)
  • Honduras: beans 
  • India: rice, wheat
  • Kenya and Tanzania: cowpea, pigeon pea, sorghum
  • Laos: cucumber, long bean, rice, sweet corn, watermelon
  • Papua New Guinea: sweet potato, taro
  • Rwanda and Uganda: beans

Regional Highlights


Papua New Guinea

East Africa

Collecting weather data using iButtons - a technical guide

Bioversity scientists are using improved and affordable iButton sensors to measure local weather in farmers' fields under the Seeds for Needs Initiative. Learn how to use them in Bioversity's technical manual: Collecting Weather Data in the Field with High Spatial and Temporal Resolution Using iButtons.

The manual is available in English and Spanish.

Seeds for Needs – Papua New Guinea

Seeds for Needs – Papua New Guinea

Read about Papua New Guinea and the Seeds for Needs initiative through the voices of some of the farmers we work with in this little booklet.