CGIAR Diversification Initiative in Eastern and Southern Africa

The Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), guided by its maxim ‘Science for a Food Secure Future,’ always commits to providing support to farmers, SMEs—Agribusinesses & others in the value chains, innovators, youth, and women courtesy of its big cohort of scientists.


“CGIAR is keen to deliver its innovations to farmers and others in food security initiatives in partnership with governments and the private sector,” says Dr Inga Jacobs-Mata, Initiative Lead for Ukama Ustawi and International Water Management Institute (IWMI)’s Director of Water, Growth and Inclusion.

Dr Inga was the lead speaker at a Press briefing that announced the launch of the Ukama Ustawi Scaling Fund, the CGIAR initiative on Diversification in East & Southern Africa (ESA) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Other speakers at the physical attendance and online briefing included Dr Iddo Dror, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Program Leader, Impact at Scale; Mandlenkosi Nkomo, Chief Growth Officer at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Dr Karen Nortje, Senior Researcher – Gender and Social Inclusion at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The Ukama Ustawi Scaling Fund focuses on supporting innovation scaling to transform agrifood systems in East and Southern Africa and is being coordinated by ILRI. In its inaugural 2023 round, Ukama Ustawi provides three awards of US$ 125,000 to support innovations scaling expected to have a meaningful impact in the ESA region.

“The Regional Integrated Initiatives of CGIAR have a strong emphasis and responsibility to support innovation scaling in specific geographies. The challenge is how to make this happen and to support coordination with very many other initiatives across the region,” Dr Inga expounds.

According to her, the scaling fund is a tangible mechanism to foster this coordination across many centers and countries.

Moreover, the Scaling Fund aligns with CGIAR 2030 research & innovation Strategy, with a focus on enhancing smallholder productivity, diversification, and risk mitigation in maize-based farming across 12 countries in the ESA region (viz. Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia & Mozambique).

It also has a special emphasis on gender, youth, and social inclusion along with advanced extension services, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) development, effective governance structures, and increased investments.

Dr Inga explained that the Ukama Ustawi initiative is one of the six CGIAR initiatives in the ESA region and emphasized that it shall also foster partnerships and innovations scaling including in digital advisory systems to improve maize farming.

Dr Iddo Dror, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Program Leader, Impact at Scale said CGIAR is overly excited at the Scaling Fund as it shall boost innovation including among Small Holder farmers where it shall emphasize gender and social inclusion including working to attract youth into agribusiness and other agricultural initiatives.

“We’re committed to applying the best science for innovations and packaging of the innovations; we also encourage inclusive innovations by talking to farmers and our other partners both in the ESA region and other parts of the world as this enriches innovations,” explained Mandlenkosi.

Dr Inga explained that the Scaling Fund was launched alongside a meeting of several CGIAR partners at the ILRI campus discussing strategies for CGIAR including the need for more awareness of its mandate and initiatives. She appreciated that 70 percent of CGIAR innovations have been seen in ESA & Eastern South Asia with Ethiopia leading at position 1 followed by Bangladesh and Kenya at positions 2 & 3 respectively.

In Kenya, many innovations have been realized in the production of drought-resistant and early-maturity crop seeds, small-scale mechanization, agro-processing social inclusion, and policy formulation among other initiatives. “Moreover, of the other innovations developed in the ESA region 1 million farmers benefited from the Munda Makeover and 30,000 farmers benefitted from conservation agricultural processes,” Dr Inga added.

She appreciated the fact that the Ukama Ustawi scaling fund shall accelerate agribusiness and food systems and provide tailored technical assistance for SMEs. The first call for applicants for the Scaling Fund is already out in four countries in the ESA region namely Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda & Zambia involving a cohort of 10 firms in agribusiness. The scaling shall in the future go beyond agribusiness to the value chain, climate-smart agriculture & nutrition.

Pitching for the scaling fund happened on October 26 involving the 10 Food Systems Agribusiness acceleration SMEs and about 50 funders/investors. Initially, the call attracted 900 applicants (showing the great need for funding here); 290 of the applicants were evaluated and only 10 could be supported with these being the ones to do the pitching. The investors involved in the pitching have been curated for the purpose according to Dr Inga. CGIAR is always looking for more partners in order to expand funding in its initiatives including in other areas such as ecology.

“We would wish to crowdfund and get more funding for our other future initiatives cycle at CGIAR and attain our hashtag 25by25 meaning getting  25 million US$ by the year 2025,” added Dr Iddo Dror.

Dr Karen Nortje urged journalists to speak to the youth & women pitchers in the current cohort to hear the story of their experiences some involving the challenges faced.

“An enabling environment for women and youth businesses is paramount but this is difficult to get among women and youths due to various factors. We’re keen to partner with more women given that women often conduct good businesses that benefit entire communities,” she affirmed.

According to her CGIAR showcases women’s excellence in business and promotes gender –action plans. Notably, Ukama Ustawi is a bilingual term coined in Shona & Swahili languages foretelling that in unity growth can be accelerated to move industry forward.

Leave a reply