Seeds of Survival


USC Canada’s work promotes vibrant family farms, strong rural communities and healthy ecosystems around the world, by focusing on activities that build food and livelihood security for small-scale farmers and preserve the agricultural biodiversity necessary to feeding a growing and changing planet.

Seeds of Survival (SoS) is the name of USC Canada’s core program working in partnerships with farming communities in 12 countries around the world:

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The first objective of SoS is to ensure a secure source of food and livelihood for small-scale farmers without losing the resource base essential for sustaining it. The second and equally important goal is to promote crop diversity.

This unique and award-winning approach embodies our values of rights, resilience and respect. It also rests on a systems perspective that recognizes the connections between our five thematic areas of work and the need to act on each of them to attain food sovereignty.

There are five key assumptions behind Seeds of Survival:

  1. Farmers are knowledgeable producers who, for a host of reasons including climate change, are finding it hard to maintain the diversity and innovation at the heart of their food security.
  2. Traditional local crop varieties are affordable, often nutritionally superior, and better adapted to challenging growing conditions than varieties not native to a region.
  3. Farmers are local experts and play as important a role in enhancing productivity as agricultural scientists.
  4. Conservation through use and plant selection is vital to protecting seed security and diversity and the survival of our planet’s biodiversity.
  5. Women and young people play a critical role in farming, and their contribution, both as farmers and leaders, must be valued if we are to achieve sustainable and vibrant rural economies.

Seeds of Survival stresses the importance of building upon small-scale farmers’ time-tested local knowledge and practices, limiting the need for external farming methods that are often incompatible with local growing conditions. A key component of the program is fostering collaborative relationships between farmers, scientists, governments and local NGO workers.

Our Ottawa-based program managers travel overseas as needed, but USC Canada does not send Canadians to work or volunteer in our program countries. We work through local independent partner organizations, or when that is not possible, through USC Canada employees hired locally.

Since the program’s start in 1989 in Ethiopia, Seeds of Survival has allowed USC Canada and the farmers, scientists and practitioners involved in the program to build a solid base of knowledge and expertise about agroecology and its application in various cultural and ecological contexts, including harsh and remote landscapes where people have little access to external resources.

Whenever possible, we encourage exchanges between participants from different countries so they can share their knowledge with each other and with a broader group of practitioners who can benefit from it.

Seeds of Survival is a global program with projects in 11 Global South countries. In 2013, USC Canada partnered with Seeds of Diversity Canada to bring the Seeds of Survival approach home to Canada, through The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.

Download our SoS pamphlet

Where We Work: At a Glance

Click on the country name to learn more!

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LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.



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  • Phone: 1-800-565-6872

USC Canada is a Registered Canadian Charity 11927-6129-RR-0001

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