In Conversation with SeedNL Programme Director Willem Schoustra

Having had the chance to settle into his role, we checked in with SeedNL Programme Director Willem Schoustra, to find out about his initial impressions and how things had been going.

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We began by asking Willem how he envisages the role of SeedNL evolving in the coming 12-24 months. “During the first few months I’ve taken the time to speak to a lot of partners and stakeholders, because I really wanted to listen and learn more about their expectations both from SeedNL and myself. In terms of how I see the role of SeedNL in the coming period, it's really going to be focussed on using the organisations convening power to see what we can do in terms of partnerships and actions in various countries. Secondly, it’s also about what we can learn from everything we’re doing to further develop into a community of practice. With so many projects taking place across the world involving Dutch stakeholders and finance, we can look at what has worked and what hasn't, and learn from what can be done better. Finally, I also see SeedNL forming a platform for overcoming potential disagreements by taking on a safeguarding role whilst using concrete examples on the ground.”

On a not too similar note, Willem expanded by outlining some of the big priorities he’s already identified for SeedNL in the coming period. “I think what’s also needed is to establish and develop partnerships, again by using SeedNL’s conveying power. These should be established with a long term perspective to really create impact by bringing the right people together around the table so they can have a stronger understanding of each other.”

Looking ahead, Willem further elaborated on how he envisages SeedNL and NFP working together. “I really hope the relationship between the two organisations can provide mutual benefits because the seed sector and seed systems are part of the larger food system that NFP is working on. Whilst working on seed sector development, we can align with NFP colleagues to work on topics such as climate change, saline circumstances, soil and water. All these elements are interconnected with the seed sector and seed sector development, so by working on these topics more holistically I see a real benefit from teaming up with NFP.”

When asked about any success stories he’s aware of since starting at SeedNL, Willem explained, “there are several that come to mind, but let me highlight one in particular. This year we launched the 'seed law toolbox’. This is one of the SeedNL flagship programmes, where we can offer small initiatives in countries lined up with Dutch Embassies, to apply for funding of between €20-50,000 to carry out analysis, scoping and work on bottlenecks within the enabling environment on topics such as regulation, law or enforcement. These projects can hopefully be the seeds that are planted which can grow into larger integrated projects. This year we had 23 applications and although we were unfortunately only able to offer grants to four projects it demonstrated the success of the toolbox and the need for it to be available for the coming 5-10 years at least.”

Last week SeedNL hosted its annual event, so we rounded up by asking Willem about his reflections and if there were any key takeaways he would like to share. “This was the first time SeedNL have hosted an annual event and was therefore the first opportunity to bring the whole SeedNL family together. We had over 100 experts from the Netherlands including representatives from civil organisations, government, research institutes and the private sector, which once more, was a demonstration of SeedNL’s conveying power. In terms of the content, I was really impressed with what came out from the keynote speakers and breakout sessions, which provided further direction for the future of SeedNL and to add to the existing work we’re carrying out.”