Ukama Ustawi: Diversification for Resilient Agribusiness Ecosystems in East and Southern Africa


East and Southern Africa is a climate hotspot, with more than US$45 billion in agricultural production at risk from higher temperatures, shorter growing seasons, and more extreme droughts and floods. Maize, a staple crop covering up to 75% of cropland in parts of the region, is particularly vulnerable, projected to face yield declines of 15%, among other climate impacts. Many of the affected areas already have serious levels of hunger and malnutrition, with the highest burden experienced by women and youth from marginalized, vulnerable communities.

The next decade will be critical for strengthening food, land and water systems in East and Southern Africa. The region’s agribusiness ecosystem has been identified as a critical engine for agricultural and economic development, climate change adaptation, and gender and youth empowerment. Investment in innovation, capabilities and supportive environments will be essential for driving sustainable growth that benefits all.


This Initiative — the name of which means “well-being” — aims to support climate-resilient agriculture and livelihoods in 12 countries in East and Southern Africa by helping millions of smallholders intensify, diversify and de-risk maize-mixed farming through improved extension services, enterprise development and private investment.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Diversifying and sustainably intensifying production: assessing needs and options for the introduction of crops, livestock, mechanization and/or irrigation; applying innovations in farming, markets and diets; and building capacity and scaling through training and research for development.
  • De-risking and digitalizing value chains: with farmers, co-designing and delivering Innovation Package bundles of digital agro-advisory systems and research management products — including mobile applications, TV programs and social media — to connect farmers to markets and improve farming practices.
  • Unlocking access to funding, investment and technical assistance: opening doors to capital from financiers in support of innovative environmental and social enterprises, and providing tailored technical assistance to agribusiness, including via CGIAR expertise.
  • Ensuring landscape-scale environmental health: supporting sustainable natural resource management, underpinned by policy and governance, with a particular focus on water.
  • Empowering and engaging women and youth: mapping challenges and opportunities for gender and social inequality in agribusiness, and applying coordinated interventions for transformational change.
  • Scaling innovations and coordinating CGIAR and partner activities in the region: A scaling hub, using the “scaling readiness” approach, will bring together CGIAR’s key scaling partners in the region to inform, activate and bring to scale innovations that respond to regional or country demand.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. 50,000 farmers, value chain actors and consumers (40% women and 40% youth) in maize-mixed systems using climate-smart intensification and diversification practices with improved water and land management practices.
  2. 1 million farmers and other value chain actors (40% women and 40% youth) accessing bundled digital agro-advisory and agricultural risk management products and services that support their response to climate risks, and manage land and water systems in a more sustainable way for climate resilience.
  3. At least 50 start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises — 40% run by women and 40% by youth — using scaled climate-smart solutions, supporting diversification and intensification of maize systems through at least US$5 million in new finance.
  4. 20,000 hectares under improved and sustainable management from US$100 million of investment, enabled by 4 strategies or policies and ex-ante analysis that supports collaborative governance and management of multifunctional landscapes.


Projected impacts and benefits include:


Climate adaptation and mitigation will be supported through the scaling of climate-smart agriculture, including the introduction of innovations such as stress-tolerant crop varieties, updated soil management and irrigation practices, mechanization, agro-advisory support services and an enabling policy environment, at national, regional and continental scales, benefiting 11.3 million people.


Evidence strongly suggests that crop diversification, including the introduction of nutrient-dense, climate-resilient crops, livestock and fish, will bolster food and nutrition security, and stabilize food production in East and Southern Africa, benefiting 11.3 million people.


Fostering an agribusiness ecosystem that serves farmers, with a focus on women and youth, will reduce poverty and bolster livelihoods and jobs for 11.3 million people.


Women, youth and other marginalized groups will be supported with targeted technical, financial and entrepreneurial capacity building and support, including from the public and private sectors and civil society, in order to promote their engagement, ownership, employment opportunities and incomes in agribusiness, thereby benefiting 1.1 million women and bolstering development for the entire region.


Environmental health and biodiversity will be supported through collaborative management planning and integrated policy implementation at landscape scales, with an ongoing community of practice on water, food and climate security and resilience in East and Southern Africa, bringing 798,000 hectares of land under improved management.


A Path to Sustainable, Climate-Resilient Agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa: Enhancing Science to Support the Agribusiness Ecosystem

For more details, view the Initiative proposal


Header photo: Cutting fodder at Simon and Sylvia Kiruja’s dairy farm in Meru, Kenya. The family is among those who have received training and new technology like the Brachiaria fodder grass varieties to improve milk yields. Photo by G. Smith/Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.