Ukama Ustawi Annual Report 2023: Cultivating partnerships to scale inclusive agricultural innovations in East and Southern Africa

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The year 2023 marked another significant period for the CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa—Ukama Ustawi (UU). Rooted in the principles of Ukama (meaning ‘partnerships’ in Shona) and Ustawi (meaning ‘well-being’ and ‘development’ in Swahili), UU capitalized on its extensive partnership network across the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region and beyond, fostering collaboration, co-learning, and co-creation throughout the year.

East and Southern Africa emerged as a significant hotspot for innovations in 2022, contributing approximately 40 percent of the nearly 200 innovations developed by CGIAR. Building on this momentum, UU actively fostered 45 innovation profiles and 7 innovation packages in 2023, directly benefiting 1,155,510 innovation users. Leveraging the innovation potential of the region, International Livestock Research Initiative (ILRI), supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand, led UU’s charge to establish the ‘Ukama Ustawi Scaling Fund’ to propel agrifood system innovations across ESA. In its inaugural round, the fund awarded three grants of USD 125,000 each to pioneering projects poised to scale bundled agricultural innovations in Africa.

In February, the CGIAR Food Systems Accelerator (CFSA) meticulously selected 10 agribusinesses for its first cohort to strengthen climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices and de-risk business models. These businesses received tailored technical assistance from CGIAR, assistance in investment readiness and engagement with private sector investors via 2SCALE, and guidance on user experience and gender inclusion with help from The Rallying Cry. On the Food Systems Accelerator Pitch Day in October 2023, which was hosted by the Alliance for Bioversity-CIAT and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the first cohort winners of the CFSA agribusiness award were announced, with each winner delivering a compelling 6-minute pitch showcasing their innovations. Following this success, a second call for applications was launched in November, inviting agribusinesses in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia to join the program. This year, UU is collaborating with the Agroecology Initiative to assist those agribusinesses in adopting sustainable agricultural practices that are integrated with agroecology principles.

The year 2023 was also a landmark year for agricultural mechanization in ESA, as UU co-developed solutions for sustainable and inclusive farming mechanization through CIMMYT. Over 3,000 farmers in Kenya were sensitized through farmer field days, mechanization exhibitions and trainings, while Zambia saw the establishment of four service providers to improve mechanization access. This March, the Ukama Ustawi ShareFair in Zimbabwe fostered knowledge sharing, collaboration and networking among the UU Community of Spirit (CoS), followed by a one-day field trip to look at mechanization in Masvingo.

To showcase UU’s work on bundling and scaling innovations, IWMI pioneered two virtual field tours (VFTs) in Kenya and Malawi, bridging the logistical gap via technology to enable a live platform for researchers, regional partners and farmers to interact, learn about the unique challenges faced by farmers, and find solutions together.

“For Ukama Ustawi, 2023 was not just a year of growth but a confluence of collaboration with partners—new and old—across East and Southern Africa. With every partnership forged and innovation scaled, we demonstrated that agrifood systems transformation is as much about changing how we work together as it is about technical interventions.” – Dr Inga Jacobs-Mata, Director, Water, Growth and Inclusion at CGIAR/IWMI and Ukama Ustawi Initiative Lead

Partnerships remain integral to UU’s success. Since 2022, we have actively cultivated over 150 partnerships across the ESA region. Our growing partnership network includes organizations such as the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES), Wageningen University, University of California, Davis, Agricultural Consultative Forum (ACF), AKADEMIYA2063, Financial Access Consulting Services (FACS), Mediae Company, and The Rallying Cry, among others.

Read the 2023 Ukama Ustawi Annual Report to learn more about these and other exciting updates.

More highlights from Ukama Ustawi:

The Food Systems Accelerator Pitch Day highlights video


Featured image: Grace Saizi and her two daughters in a Conservation Agriculture Mother trial with maize-groundnut/pigeonpea doubled-up legume system. Credit: Christian Thierfelder/ CIMMYT 

Ukama Ustawi is led by CGIAR’s International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in partnership with seven other CGIAR centers (including the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and WorldFish) as well as government and donor agencies and private-sector actors all along the region’s food system value chains, including farmers, small and medium-sized businesspeople, traders, and financiers.

We thank all funders who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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