Initiative Result:

Ukama Ustawi cross-cutting platforms are driving co-creation and scaling of bundled socio-technical innovations that drive diversification efforts in East and Southern Africa

UU is driving innovation co-creation and scaling of socio-ecological technical (SET) innovations via its cross-cutting platforms: scaling hub, ESA Learning Alliance, policy hub and agribusiness network and accelerator. In 2023, the CGIAR Food System Accelerator (CFSA) empowered 10 innovative agribusinesses, while the Ukama Ustawi (UU) Scaling Fund facilitated CGIAR and collaborators to co-develop agricultural innovations to scale, which saw 40% of CGIAR innovations from the ESA, demonstrating the region’s innate potential.  

East and Southern Africa is a climate hotspot. And the region is racing to strengthen its food and nutrition security amidst the multiple threats posed by climate change. Low productivity among smallholder farmers and insufficient private investment in the food system are demanding food system transformation via a collaborative and coordinated effort to drive sustainable and inclusive agriculture in the region. CGIAR’s agricultural innovations, technical expertise with a team of over 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.  

De-risking business models via the CGIAR Food Systems Accelerator 

To reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by spreading climate-friendly solutions that leave no one behind, it’s crucial to consider the needs of everyone involved and ensure the plans lead to concrete improvements. The CGIAR Food Systems Accelerator (CFSA) program provides agribusiness with the potential to innovate personalized solutions that promote climate-smart agricultural practices. CFSA’s tailored approach empowers agribusinesses to grow their businesses in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way. In this light, 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 $11,117,000 to strengthen 10 agribusinesses from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia by providing technical assistance via 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 Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia. Sixty percent were led or co-led by women, and 30% by youth, with the balance mixed with 50% in early-stage and 50% in growth stages. 

CFSA’s efforts resulted in a pipeline of 46 potential funding partners offering grants, debt and equity in ESA and 41% 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. Over 3,000 females were trained by UU, along with approximately 2,800 men, and over 1,150,000 innovation users reached. 

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 through other means. 

“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 towards a better future for all.”  Florence Okot, Yellow Star Produce and Food Processors founder and CFSA beneficiary 

Scaling up of CGIAR innovations for food system transformation via the Scaling Fund 

Scaling plays an integral part of UU efforts to transform the socio-economic landscape and grow the economy in the 12 ESA countries. And to this end, making sure 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 Ukama Ustawi staff and external scaling experts, three applications out of a total of 28 submissions from within CGIAR were selected for taking agricultural innovations to scale in ESA. 

The UU Scaling Fund highlights include the development of a gender equity and social inclusion (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 curricula, and upskilled 3,000 experts from the research, government, development, and private sectors. 

Creating an enabling environment 

UU provides governments with policy support to drive climate-resilient agricultural transformations. In 2023, UU directly impacted six policy changes through the Tanzania Seed Sector Development Strategy (TSSDS) with USAID and ASPIRES to strengthen the seed delivery system, institutional coordination, and private sector involvement; the National Framework for Weather, Water, and Climate Services for Zambia (NFWWCS) in collaboration with Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA); South Africa’s revised Climate Change Strategy for the water sector with the Department of Water and Sanitation (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 with the Government of Madagascar in collaboration with the World Bank. 


Featured image: CFSA beneficiary Florence Okot, founder of Yellow Star Produce and Food Processors. Credit: Yellow Star Produce and Food Processors