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


East and Southern Africa is a climate hotspot, with over US$45 billion in agricultural production at risk from higher temperatures, shorter growing seasons, more extreme droughts and floods. These risks cascade, increasing disease and pest outbreaks, affecting post-harvest storage and transport, jeopardizing businesses and supply chains, and undermining livelihoods. Maize is particularly vulnerable, with 15% climate-related declines in yield (without adaptation), cropland suitability, and degrading environmental services and health. Maize production covers over 75% of the cropping area in many places, increasing the vulnerability of large, growing, and often malnourished populations (largely women and youth), since maize provides most of their calories and income.

Farmers and market systems in these areas face key challenges limiting food and water security and climate resilience, including: access to inputs, advisories, capacity, and finance; youth unemployment and interest in agriculture, and social inequality hindering equitable growth; tensions over owning or using scarce resources; increased environmental migration; human-wildlife conflict; and challenges to collaborative governance.


This Initiative aims to identify, leverage, and accelerate policies, practices, technologies and services for climate-smart innovations to diversify and de-risk agriculture in maize-mixed areas of East and Southern Africa.

This will be achieved by:

  • Diversifying and reducing risk in maize-mixed systems; focusing on farms, markets and consumer behavior; and improving water and land management, soil health, nutrition, resilience to climate shocks, pest and disease outbreaks.
  • Unlocking private sector investment and promoting empowerment of women and youth in value chains, through capacity strengthening (incubators, accelerators, internships), spurring the growth of start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises, jobs, inclusive finance, and social equity.
  • Ensuring landscape-scale environmental health, sustainable water and land management, policy implementation and governance promoting water security and other ecosystem service and human movement flows as adaptation strategies; renewable energy technologies; and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Transition of 200,000 farmers, value chain actors, and consumers from maize-mixed systems to more diversified, integrated, and resilient climate-smart farming systems. Regional scaling hub catalyzes this transformation by leveraging partnerships and providing fit-for-purpose innovation-bundle delivery models.
  2. Improvement of access to climate information, digital agriculture, and agro-advisory services to enhance early warning for early action and preparedness, and improved climate resilience; communication strategies broadly developed for digital agriculture and financial services availability for 1 million farmers.
  3. Identification of clear targets across work packages that will reach 60,000 women; of which 600 women and youth are identified as change agents for building capacity and financial support. Thirty percent of new jobs created are for women and 40% for youth.
  4. Incubation of at least 250 small- and medium-sized enterprises (30% run by women and 40% by youth), placed in the process to receive financing for a total of at least US$5 million.
  5. Activation of 60 partnerships, support of six strategies or policies, and dissemination of information about US$300 million of investments, enabling collaborative governance of multifunctional landscapes.



Overall, improved resilience to climate and shocks, and adaptation across food, land, and water systems, are supported for millions of small-scale producers and vulnerable groups on cropland spanning 12 countries. Soil health, resilience in agro-food value chains, and renewable energy use are all supported and improved.


Millions more people have access to more nutritious food, with greater food security, and improved health. Smallholder farmers, especially women, in East and Southern Africa have moved beyond maize-mixed systems to maize-mixed/diversified systems and biofortified crops, consuming more diverse foods, diversifying food sold in market systems, and (re)using safer water for safe food.


Improved on-farm productivity enhances incomes and livelihoods; more diversified production creates new off-farm opportunities in value chains and facilitates intra- and inter-regional trade; start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises support new jobs, increasing livelihood options and reducing poverty, especially in vulnerable populations of women and youth.


Women and youth are more empowered, have ownership security and greater employment opportunities after investments, capacity, and support are targeted and expanded to them; greater social inclusion and equality result from lifting structural and productivity barriers.


Environmental health, including water and land management, is restored and managed to support ecosystem services, ensuring lasting benefits across broad landscapes and people. Collaborative management planning and integrated policy implementation at landscape scales, with an ongoing community of practice on water, food, and climate security, and climate resilience in the region.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


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.