New CGIAR Initiative to Catalyze Resilient Agrifood Systems in East and Southern Africa

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The new Ukama Ustawi Initiative will help millions of vulnerable smallholders in 12 countries transition from maize-mixed systems to sustainably intensified, diversified, and de-risked agrifood systems.

Partners of CGIAR’s new Regional Integrated Initiative in East and Southern Africa (ESA) held a kick-off meeting in Nairobi from March 2 to 3, 2022. Eighty-five participants attended, including national agricultural research extension programs, government representatives, private sector actors, funders and national and regional agricultural research and development organizations.

Entitled ‘Ukama Ustawi’, the Initiative aims to support climate-smart agriculture and livelihoods in 12 countries in ESA. These countries include Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe (in Phase 1); Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda (in Phase 2); and eSwatini, Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa (in Phase 3). The Initiative aims to help millions of smallholders intensify, diversify and de-risk maize-mixed farming through improved extension services, institutional capacity strengthening, targeted farm management bundles, policy support, enterprise development and private investment.

Ukama Ustawi is a bilingual word derived from Shona in Zimbabwe and Swahili in Kenya. In Shona, Ukama refers to partnerships, and in Swahili, Ustawi means well-being and development. Together, they resemble the vision for the Initiative to achieve system-level development through innovative partnerships.

The meeting brought together partners to get to know each other, understand roles and responsibilities, identify priorities for 2022, and review the cross-cutting programmatic underpinnings of Ukama Ustawi (including gender and social inclusion, capacity strengthening and learning).

Baitsi Podisi, representing CCARDESA, a key partner of Ukama Ustawi, said he is excited to be part of the launch:”CCARDESA, in its cooperation and coordination mandate, can learn a lot from CGIAR in restructuring to respond to the changing times”. Podisi supported the partnership with CGIAR in the Initiative’s embedded approach to policy dialogue, working with partners such as CCARDESA, ASARECA and FANRPAN. Similarly, FANRPAN’s Francis Hale emphasized the need not to re-invent the wheel but work with partners who already have a convening power to advance the policy agenda for diversification and sustainable intensification.

What were key issues discussed?

One of the features of Ukama Ustawi is the use of four interconnected platforms, (scaling hub, policy hub, accelerator program and ESA learning platform). These will provide spaces for exchange and learning with partners across all CGIAR Initiatives in the region. Partners conducted a series of ‘fishbowl’ interactions across work packages to review the planned activities and provide a clearer understanding of deliverables, identifying synergies, potential overlaps, common partners and countries, and setting timelines.

The initiative will work with innovative multimedia platforms to change knowledge, attitudes and practices of millions of farmers in ESA. One key partner in this area is the Shamba Shape Up TV show and the iShamba digital platform. Sophie Rottman, Producer of the Shamba Shape Up show, who spoke during the launch said she is looking forward to the partnership with Ukama Ustawi that will help expand her show to Uganda and Zambia.

Jean Claude Rubyogo, representing the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), another key partner of Ukama Ustawi, said: “It is time we move away from CGIAR-initiated to country-initiated development activities. This is what Ukama Ustawi is all about”. Martin Kropff, Global Director of Resilient Agrifood Systems at CGIAR, in his presentation ‘CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiatives’, said CGIAR’s regional integrated initiatives are designed to respond to national/regional demands. “The initiatives will start by working with partners to assess the food and nutritional challenges in the region, and tackle them by bringing in innovative solutions.”

The event was concluded by agreeing on the implementation of the inception phase of Ukama Ustawi, and follow-on discussions to finalise key activities in 2022.

Learn more about the Ukama Ustawi Initiative.

Materials from the meeting are available online

Core partners kick-off meeting – Ukama Ustawi (UU): Diversification for Resilient Agrifood systems in East and Southern Africa (ESA)

Regional Integrated Initiatives (RIIs): East and Southern Africa Regional Integrated Initiative Ukama Ustawi (UU) – Inception Meeting

Overview of CGIAR priorities in the ESA region

Innovation packages and Scaling readiness as a framework for optimizing Regional Integrated Initiatives-Global Science Initiative linkages

ClimBeR – Data management plan and data repository


Header photo by M. Mundia/ILRI.

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