Project information

Improving rural income through low-cost technology

Enable small-holder farmers in Zambia to benefit from seed certification, securing their intellectual property rights and being able to sell the best landraces at a premium price, without losing the advantages of their traditional landraces.

August 2014 - August 2016

Charity information: Crop-Innovations

  • Need


    In many parts of the world, resource-poor farmers can benefit from integrating their landrace varieties into formal seed certification structures. But this is easier said than done, because current formal certification generally relies upon the uniformity of the certified seed, and the genetic diversity of landraces often fails to conform to these assumptions. New scientific technology can provide farmers with means of increasing the value of their crops through formal certification.


    Crop-Innovations and Self Help Africa are working to adapt scientific tools currently used in biological research to create a genetic fingerprint that distinguishes landrace varieties. Our aim is to develop a cheap and simple genetic test kit that will initially be implemented at low–tech research stations in Zambia but can be used by farmers worldwide. Tests will be quicker and cheaper than sending plants to laboratories for testing and standard certification procedures.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Develop a cheap and simple genetic test kit that can be used at low–tech research stations.


    » Genetic analysis of beans to identify suitable genetic markers
    » Development of portable technology for genetic testing

    Farmers in Zambia are able to formally register their unique varieties and thereby increase the value of their seed.

  • Impact


    The kit will initially be implemented at low–tech research stations in Zambia, to enable co-operatives to register the unique characteristics of the crops they have developed and obtain a premium price for the sale of their seed. In future, the access to certification systems resulting from this technology could transform the economic outlook of farmers worldwide.


    This work is pushing the boundaries of scientific technology. We are investigating a number of methods of genetic analysis that can be adapted for on-site use. Some of these lines of investigation may not work. However, we have extensive expertise in this area and are investigating a range of techniques so if one aspect doesn't work, we have other options.


    Funders of the project will receive a quarterly email with progress and future activities.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £50,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £20,000 Genetic analysis Experiments to identify suitable genetic markers
      £20,000 Test kit creation Devlopment of portable technology
      £10,000 Farmer use Piloting the test kits among farmers in Zambia
  • Background


    A landlocked country in East Africa, Zambia faces extensive social and environmental problems, including those resulting from an increasing population, soil erosion and inadequate water treatment facilities.


    The majority of people in Zambia rely on smallholder agriculture for their livelihood. What they grow, eat and earn is often constrained by unavailability and unaffordability of seeds, and by uncertainty over the quality of both the local and improved varieties of seeds that they can obtain. Smalholder farmers will be the main beneficiaries of the technology. In addition, the technology can be adapted for use in various clinical and research settings, so has multiple other beneficiaries.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Crop-Innovations provides vital research capabilities and expertise to help farmers with various aspects of the farming process, we have expertise in plant biology and molecular genetics, adapting science to help farming.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Heather Sanders

    Operations manager. Heather will manage the project and develop the technology.