After Nairobi: Innovation, partnership and finance to scale climate-smart agriculture in Africa

The landmark 2023 Africa Climate Summit was the moment when climate action for Africa at last took center stage in international climate diplomacy. But the work should not stop there. We must continue to build on what was achieved and maintain momentum toward COP28 and beyond.  

Kenyan farmer Phoebe Mwangangi speaks at the Africa Climate Summit. From Makueni County, Phoebe is a community leader who works with AICCRA and other CGIAR research centers to train farmers in adopting climate-smart agriculture. 

“My call to everyone present in this historic Summit, is for us to work together and converge our efforts on African priorities. I urge everyone to contribute to our generation’s unprecedented and highly consequential endeavour to catalyse climate action in a spirit of candour, collaboration, and courage.” 

It was with these words that HE President William Ruto of Kenya opened the 2023 Africa Climate Summit (ACS23) in the halls of the Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC) in Nairobi.  

ACS23 was jointly hosted by Kenya and the African Union (AU), creating a unique moment for member states to come together in promoting more urgent climate action that enhances resilience, protects livelihoods, and unlocks investment and climate finance to drive growth (that avoids excessive greenhouse gas emissions) in ways that ensure a just transition for all.  

“Let us imagine a pathway for different financial structures that can deliver on Africa’s goals. Let us commit to investing in viable solutions presented by renewable energy, green industrialization, climate smart agriculture and nature conservation,” added President Ruto. 

Transforming African agriculture—and the global food system it can support—is a priority for African leaders, its regional and national organisations, and their global partners. The need for a robust and coordinated policy response is clear, to accelerate the rollout and scaling of what we already know to work well to bolster food security must be our priority. 

Meeting this demand, Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) forms robust and innovative partnerships with national and regional organisations to scale climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and climate information services (CIS) so that they reach millions of small-scale farmers in Africa, building on more than five decades of innovation led by CGIAR, the world’s largest research network for agriculture and food security.  

AICCRA partnerships have already brought bundled CSA and CIS services to three million farmers in the last few years alone, and we expect to reach over five million by the end of 2023.  

With more than 18,000 accredited participants estimated to be on site, ACS23 proved to be an unparalleled opportunity to showcase and expand our partnerships across the continent.

Some of the 70 innovators invited by the African Union and AICCRA to share their projects with investors and fellow innovators from across Africa and around the world.

African solutions to the climate crisis

Thanks to a deep, established partnership with the African Union, AICCRA served as a technical and communications partner for their groundbreaking Climate Action Innovation Hub  The Hub provided an opportunity for more than 70 innovators—mostly young and many women— from across Africa to pitch and showcase a diverse range of the bold, innovative climate actions that align to the specific ambitions and goals of the Africa Climate Change Strategy

They pitched their ideas to an enraptured crowd in a packed marquee every evening at the summit, which included other innovators and investors, who we were pleased to see made personal connections in the hub, and who are now following up on ideas that could scale the innovations presented and bring them to market.  

Take Sheila Moor from Nigeria, just one of the many exceptional innovators and entrepreneurs who are doing incredible work.  

Sheila is a co-founder and CEO of an Agri-Tech startup known as Fresh Fare Limited whose aim is to rebuild sustainable food systems promoting CSA and support small-scale farmers.  

Fresh Fare have a particular focus on food preservation for fresh farm produce using cold storage resulting in less food waste. 

What was so exciting about these pitches?  

When we spoke to Leah Wanambwa Naess, Senior Policy Officer at the African Union Commission, she acclaimed the “diversity of the projects, and the passion that these youth have, and their resilience.” 

Highlighting how the Hub received more than 2,000 applications, Leah said, “It’s important they are here at the Africa Climate Summit.” 

The purpose of the hub was to raise awareness with African changemakers and international partners of its Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan (2022-2032) and to support them in accelerating and scaling the kinds of projects that can bring the AU’s vision for climate action to life.  

“I think that attracted a lot of interest from other partners who are trying to do the same thing,” said Leah, who hopes the Hub can be brought to the UNFCCC COP28 climate change summit in Dubai this November to showcase innovations to a more global audience. 

African continental and regional partnerships driving climate action

Elsewhere on the Africa Climate Summit program, AICCRA hosted an official side event ‘A new vision for scaling climate action in African agriculture: The case for investing in the continent’s regional organizations.’ 

The event provided a platform for Africa’s regional organizations to put forward an agenda for action that delivers the technologies, practices and innovation that will transform African agriculture, making it more resilient and food-secure future in a changing climate. 

Speakers were drawn from Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), The African Development Bank Group, The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL), and The Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA).  

Check out our LinkedIn story about the ACS side event

Opening the event, Namukolo Covic (Regional Director, East and Southern Africa, CGIAR) said:  

“We require a vision that can take us forward, and so the Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan begins the process of giving us that vision, that we can align to. And that strategy can work in tandem with other strategies.” 

“All of us sitting in this room...are bringing examples of how the different institutions can come together to bring to fruition that vision that we are looking towards,” she added.  

But through these high-level discussions, an authentic farmer voice cut through. Phoebe Mwangangi, a Kenyan farmer, is embracing climate smart agriculture with the support of AICCRA partnerships.  

“AICCRA has brought innovations down the ground like ploughing, ripping, minimum disturbance of the soil, water harvesting....and as a community leader I have helped extended these AICCRA-led practices into neighboring communities so we can all become more sustainable in food production.” 

Phoebe Mwangangi, a champion of climate-smart agriculture

Building on the comments from Stephen Muchiri (Executive Director, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation) whose remarks focused on how the AU’s vision must work for Africa’s smallholder farmers, Phoebe closed her speech with a call to action:  

“I thank the African Union for this summit, and I would request that these policies and innovations and ideas discussed in this summit shall not remain in the office, but they shall come to the farmer who is going to implement and bring change.” 

We were also thrilled to welcome youth advocate Daniel Aryee from the Office of the African Union Special Envoy on Youth to provide reflections at the end of the event. Daniel emphasized that the AU’s new vision should give sufficient attention to scaling CSA in ways that is inclusive of young farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs in Africa – exactly what the AU’s Climate Action Innovators Hub set out to do.

Speakers at the side event ‘A new vision for scaling climate action in African agriculture: The case for investing in the continent’s regional organizations’. The event was hosted by AICCRA, the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) and the African Union Commission (AUC)

Connecting the science and innovation to policy

Throughout our engagements during the week, the AICCRA team were connecting CGIAR science and innovation with African and international efforts to build resilience to climate change.  

The World Meteorological Organisation Regional Office for Africa forged a partnership with AICCRA for two of its flagship initiatives launched at the Africa Climate Summit: The 2022 State of the Climate in Africa Report and the Early Warnings For All Action Plan for Africa, which was delivered in collaborations other critical organisations like with the African Union Commission and Africa Climate Policy Centre of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).  

The State of the Climate in Africa 2022 report shows that the rate of temperature increase in Africa has accelerated in recent decades, with “weather- and climate-related hazards becoming more severe”.  

And yet, it argues, “financing for climate adaptation is only a drop in the ocean of what is needed”.  

The primary objective of the Early Warnings For All Action Plan for Africa is to ensure that timely and accurate information about climate hazards reaches all segments of African society, particularly the most vulnerable.  

The action plan answers the call from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at COP27 that every person worldwide must protected by early warning systems by 2027.  

Early Warnings For All Action Plan for Africa is launched

Early Warnings For All Action Plan for Africa is launched

Read the WMO press release

AICCRA’s contribution to the report and plan builds on its work with partners to transform climate services in Africa. For instance, AICCRA blueprints for adopting national frameworks for weather, water and climate services have been used in eight African countries so far, while state-of-the-art forecasting systems and foresight analysis tools are now being used in 15 countries thanks to AICCRA support.  

Teferi Demissie, a climate scientist with The Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE) and the AICCRA team in East Africa, highlighted the four pillars of the Early Warnings for All Action Plan for Africa include Disaster Risk Knowledge and Management; Observation, Monitoring and Forecasting; Dissemination and Communication, and; Preparedness and Response Capabilities.  

“AICCRA has been very much involved with Pillar Two on observation, monitoring and forecasting. We have been advancing Met services in the region, to improve seasonal and sub-seasonal forecasting through critical tools – such as the NextGen forecasting – on which we have been providing trainings to Met offices in several African regions,” said Teferi.  

Teferi Demissie on the WMO-RoA Early Warnings for All in Africa Action Plan

Teferi Demissie, a climate scientist with The Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE) and the AICCRA team in East Africa, speaking at the launch of the World Meteorological Office Regional Office for Africa 'State of the Climate in Africa 2022' report and the 'Early Warnings For All Action Plan for Africa' at the 2023 Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.
In the run-up to ACS23, the 11th Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-XI), also in Nairobi, served as a technical pre-summit featuring expert group discussions to address the themes of the summit that was to come the following week. AICCRA’s East and Southern Africa team participated in plenary sessions and side events to help produce detailed, analytical, data-driven, and evidence-based recommendations for the ACS23 in the realms of early warning systems, climate research needs and funding gaps in Africa.  
Dawit Solomon and Yosef Amha at the 11th Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-XI), contributing to panel sessions on early warning systems and climate information services needs in Africa.

Scaling innovation, scaling ambition

Across the ACS23 program and the UNFCCC Africa Climate Week (which happened in parallel to the ACS, also at the KICC in Nairobi) AICCRA supported a swathe of partners to showcase compelling innovations and best practices ahead of the UNFCCC COP28 summit later this year.  

With the African Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES) we co-hosted a side event to raise awareness about the gender dimensions on climate change impacts on vulnerable communities in Africa, including a presentation on a gender hotspot mapping tool which can reveal areas where women are more at risk of experiencing adverse climate change effects.  

Veronica Nduva, Permanent Secretary at Kenya’s State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action, highlighted how recent studies led by AGNES and AICCRA in Botswana, Kenya and Uganda are providing a basis for data-driven resource investment by governments and development partners, as well as policy interventions which aim to address gender- specific risks and vulnerabilities. The mapping and related data help identify regions where climate risks are high and make it easier to measure progress in addressing the risks. 

Also with AGNES, as well as the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and AICCRA’s sister program the CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR), AICCRA explored the challenges in deploying transboundary investments, and to highlight workable solutions to adaptation financing in Africa’s most vulnerable regions. 

Sidonie Kouam (Regional Investment Lead, GGGI) highlighted that, “We need to be clear on the vision and provide the tools for the private sector to get on board.” 
 “It’s really important that we have strong partners like CGIAR who already know the sectors for successful implementation,” she added.

Elliot Dossou-Yovo, AICCRA’s team leader in Mali, presented the results of our partnerships there to scale the RiceAdvice app with bundles of climate services and mechanisation in a side event which highlighted exemplary practices that reduce emissions while increasing resilience for farmers in Africa. The scaling of RiceAdvise programs has seen productivity increase by one tonne per hectare on women’s plots, with incomes rising by USD 5,262 per hectare in Malian communities who benefit.  

In highlighting the innovations, partnerships and finance we need to scale climate-smart agriculture in Africa, AICCRA is helping to forge consensus on Africa’s priorities for climate action in agriculture, with positions informed by world class science and innovation led by CGIAR research centers. 

"As a community leader I have helped extended these AICCRA-led practices into neighboring communities so we can all become more sustainable in food production.” 

Phoebe Mwangangi

Beyond Nairobi – building momentum towards COP28

In a side event led by the Coalition of Action for Soil Health—an alliance which counts AICCRA as a supporter—speakers highlighted how fertile soils are our scarcest resource, the bedrock of any viable and sustainable food system.  

Edeme Janet (Director of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission) used the podium to build excitement for a forthcoming major African Union summit on fertilizer and soil health, set for 5-6 November 2023, which will bring together Africa’s leaders to reach a potential agreement on a ten-year action plan for sustainable productivity growth in agriculture.  

Such an “African roadmap” would be critical for delivering “gamechanger” innovations, according to Manyewu Mutamba, Head (Ag) of Agriculture at the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD. 

The ACS may yet prove to have shifted global perceptions of the continent, and boost Africa’s ability to make its voice heard in Dubai this November and influence the outcomes of COP28.  

But the energy and positivity in initiatives like the AU Climate Action Innovation Hub show how—regardless of where UNFCCC negotiations stand—that Africa’s regional and continental bodies are paving their own pathways and driving action and progress on their own terms and timelines. 

And the support of the right kinds of equitable global partnerships can positively transform critical sectors—including energy and agriculture—for a more climate-resilient future in Africa.  

As AICCRA Director Ana Maria Loboguerrero emphasised in the closing of the AU’s Climate Action Innovators Hub:  

“We want to reach African people with technologies, innovations and solutions. We are not able to do this by ourselves, that’s never going to happen. So, this...strong partnership that we have with the African Union is really helping to reach our objectives...being able to see that people are benefiting, especially young people.” 


Rhys Bucknall-Williams is Global Communications and Knowledge Manager at AICCRA

With thanks to Amy Harris and Romy Chevallier for their inputs. 

AICCRA media coverage from the Africa Climate Summit


In the news | AICCRA featured in The Guardian


In the news | African startups mull home-grown solutions to combat climate change


In the news | Young innovators using tech for climate fight


In the news | Climate change: Smallholder Farmers want financial backing