||Only a small number of governments have established meaningful and effective farmer-centred measures for the implementation of access and benefit sharing of genetic resources. One reason is the highly complex nature of the international regulatory system. This special issue of Farming Matters magazine presents practical ways in which access and benefit sharing for family farmers can be enhanced through collaborative efforts based on the rural realities, knowledge and needs of local communities. Key in this approach are community seed banks and farmer seed systems, which serve as local points of access to genetic resources as well as ensuring equitable sharing of benefits. This article presents an overview of both the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ access and benefit sharing systems that are currently being used, and examines the theory and practice of these systems.