Initiative Result:

Cross-cutting platforms drive co-creation and scaling of bundled sociotechnical innovations that drive diversification efforts in East and Southern Africa

UU is driving the co-creation and scaling of bundled socioecological technical (SET) innovations through its cross-cutting platforms: the scaling hub, ESA Learning Alliance, policy hub, and agribusiness network and accelerator.

UU is driving the co-creation and scaling of SET innovations through its cross-cutting platforms: the scaling hub, ESA Learning Alliance, policy hub, and agribusiness network and accelerator. In 2023, the CFSA empowered 10 innovative agribusinesses, and the UU scaling fund facilitated CGIAR and collaborators to co-develop agricultural innovations to scale, which saw 40 percent of CGIAR innovations from the ESA, demonstrating the region’s innate potential.

As a climate hotspot, the ESA region is racing to strengthen its food and nutrition security amid the multiple threats posed by climate change. Low productivity among smallholder farmers and insufficient private investment in the food system require food systems transformation through a collaborative and coordinated effort to drive sustainable and inclusive agriculture in the region. CGIAR’s agricultural innovations; technical expertise with a team of more than 9,000 scientists, researchers, and technicians; and a global network of partners offer agribusinesses the support they need to
overcome climate change risks and focus on sustainable, efficient food production.

leave no one behind requires considering the needs of everyone involved and ensuring that plans lead to concrete improvements. The CFSA program provides agribusinesses with the potential to innovate personalized solutions that promote CSA practices. CFSA’s tailored approach empowers  agribusinesses to grow in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way. In this context, CFSA facilitates the co-designing and scaling of strategies to overcome strategic bottlenecks, and helps develop targeted monitoring and evaluation tools and skills for project and stakeholder management, adaptive management, and communication.

In 2023, CFSA leveraged more than US$11.1 million to strengthen 10 agribusinesses from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia by providing technical assistance through CGIAR and external partners and conducting a total of 73 group workshops, field visits, and individual and peer network sessions. The first cohort of CFSA kicked off in Rwanda in February 2023. The CFSA call for applications yielded a staggering 849 applications, of which 288 met the high-quality standards for prequalification. Sixty-nine percent of the applicants featured at least one woman on the founding team. The selected agribusinesses came from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. Of these, 60 percent were led or co-led by women, and 30 percent by youth, with 50 percent in early-stage and 50 percent in growth stages.

CFSA’s efforts resulted in a pipeline of 46 potential funding partners offering grants, debt, and equity in ESA and 41 percent engaged in matchmaking with the agribusinesses for financing to scale CSA solutions. Together with four CGIAR and two external partners, CFSA also supported tailored technical assistance through 13 group workshops, 55 field visits, and five peer network sessions to help 10 agribusinesses scale and grow their CSA practices and de-risk their business models. UU trained more than 3,000 women, along with approximately 2,800 men, and reached more than 1,150,000 innovation users.

The innovations focused on improving farming efficiency and water usage for increased yields while simultaneously reducing the need for manual labor, achieved by mechanization, irrigation solutions, and other means.

Scaling plays an integral part of UU efforts to transform the socioeconomic landscape and grow the economy in the 12 ESA countries. To this end, ensuring that new ideas in agriculture reach more people is critical for improving agricultural research for development (AR4D).

In February 2024, the scaling fund announced the winners of a first round of funding to take agricultural innovations to scale in Africa. Following a rigorous evaluation process by a committee composed of UU staff and external scaling experts, three applications out of a total of 28 submissions from within CGIAR were selected to take agricultural innovations to scale in ESA.

Highlights of the UU scaling fund include the development of the GESI framework for scaling, strengthening capacity in the science and practice of scaling, GenderUp for inclusive scaling in the AR4D, innovation portfolio management (with two peer-reviewed scientific publications), an e-learning course in innovation and scaling (with 1,855 enrollments), and 39 innovation developments with seven Innovation Packages. The scaling fund trained 12 PhDs and three postdoctoral scientists, analyzed five agricultural innovation curriculums, and upskilled 3,000 experts from the research, government, development, and private sectors.

UU provides governments with policy support to drive climate-resilient agricultural transformation. In 2023, UU directly impacted six policy changes through the TSSDS with USAID and ASPIRES to strengthen the seed delivery system, institutional coordination, and private-sector involvement; the NFWWCS in collaboration with AICCRA; South Africa’s revised Climate Change Strategy for the water sector with the DWS; the Pretoria Declaration on Water Use in Agriculture and its linkages to nutrition, presented at the UN Water Conference in March 2023 in New York; and Madagascar’s National Climate Smart Agriculture Investment Plan in collaboration with the World Bank.

We are excited to be part of the program, as it offers us the opportunity to acquire extensive knowledge on modern and improved technological strategies for climate-smart agriculture and resilience to climate change. This knowledge will empower us to enhance our training programs on good climate-smart agronomic practices, reaching an additional 2,000 small-scale farmers. Our goal is to promote sustainable agriculture, increase productivity, and ensure guaranteed market access in cereal and other grain value chains. In addition, participating in the accelerator program allows us to establish valuable partnerships through networking avenues. These partnerships will enable us to champion access to healthy nutrition and food
security, working toward a better future for all.

Florence Okot, Yellow Star Produce and Food Processors founder and CFSA beneficiary

Header photo: Applying fertilizer to maize crops in Northern Province, Rwanda.Gracie Rosenbach/IFPRI.

CGIAR Centers

IWMI; The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT; ILRI


The Rallying Cry; International Fertilizer Development Center; The World Bank; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit; United States Agency for International Development; Bezos Earth Fund; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.