Participants of the 15-18 March 2022’ Dialogue on Commercialization of Climate-Relevant Agricultural Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices in Eastern and Central Africa’ in Nairobi, Kenya

The commercial opportunities to scale climate-smart agriculture in East and Central Africa

The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) hosted a workshop in Kenya on the commercialization of climate-smart agriculture technologies and innovations, and the practices that facilitate their adoption at scale in East and Central Africa. 

An enabling environment for CSA to make a meaningful and lasting impact in Eastern and Central Africa can be created through sound partnerships between the private sector, farmers’ organizations, research, and policymaking institutions.

Investing in the mutual interests of agricultural science, practice, societal values, and business could enhance the broad-based adoption and scaling of climate-smart innovations quicker and more effectively in Eastern and Central Africa regions.

ASARECA is currently leading the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program ex-pillar IV (CAADP-XP4) project funded by the European Union and the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project supported by the World Bank in Eastern and Central Africa.

Both projects are expected to strengthen the technical, institutional, and human capacity needed to enhance the transfer of climate-relevant information services, decision-making tools, and technologies supporting scaling efforts in the two regions.

Through the support from CAADP-XP4 and AICCRA projects, ASARECA, in collaboration with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO), recently convened a regional dialogue on the commercialization of climate-relevant agricultural Technologies, Innovations, and Management Practices (TIMPs) in Eastern and Central Africa.

The four-day consultative dialogue brought together stakeholders ranging from policymakers, agricultural researchers, farmer organizations, private sector actors, including smallholder farmers, foresters, livestock herders, fishermen/women, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies, financial institutions, and media professionals.

Participants came from Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

They engaged in promoting, disseminating, and scaling of validated and contextualized climate-informed agricultural technologies and evidence-backed innovations.

A welcoming speech was given by Dr. Eliud Kiplimo Kireger, the Director-General of KARLO. He reiterated the importance of promoting the commercialization of CSA for better adoption of TIMPs in the Eastern and Central African regions under a changing climate.

Collaboration between farmers, researchers, policymakers, and service providers such as input suppliers and extension providers depends on mutual understanding and dialogue.

The convenor of the consultative workshop - Dr. Enock Warinda, Executive Director of ASARECA, emphasized that agricultural transformation requires a unified approach across various partnerships with governments, development partners, the private sector, and implementing partners in the region.

Moreover, commercialization brings new products and services to markets and end-users through the production, distribution, marketing, sales, and customer support value and supply chains.

“The private sector is a strategic partner offering innovative tools, resources, knowledge, and technologies critical for transforming healthy and sustainable agri-food systems, protecting the environment, and determining how we produce and consume our food.”

Dr. Enock Warinda

National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) produce vast knowledge that prioritizes productivity and sustainable livelihoods for millions of smallholder farmers in Eastern and Central Africa.

However, the adoption of climate-smart outputs has long been a challenge for many years in the two regions.

Presentations made by country representatives on best-bet climate-smart technologies encouraged commercialization readiness.

Dr. Dawit Solomon, AICCRA – AICCRA East and Southern Africa Leader, underlined the need to maximize the generation of climate information services, climate-informed digital agro-advisories, and bundling of climate-smart technologies and innovations along with credit, financial products, and insurance to spur a greater commercialization potential through the private sector and facilitate broad-based adoption and scaling in the region.

Dr. John Recha, a scientist at AICCRA – ESA, emphasized that the success of adaptation actions in the face of changing climate in agriculture strongly relies on supporting institutional, policy, and investment environments.

Representing farmers’ views, Mr. Stephen Muchiri, CEO of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), highlighted the specific challenges that need to be examined to break the barriers facing regional farmers’ organizations.

Disaggregation of actors, technology pricing, lack of market access, competing interests, and limited capacity of technology providers have long debilitated farmers’ potential to explore regional markets and enhance trade and knowledge-sharing.

Unless such problems are equitably discussed and dialogues fostered, the private-sector actors capable of co-leading commercialization of quality and high-yielding varieties with potential for fair market value would be left out.

Thus, EAFF is prompted to effectively engage in the region’s institutional, policy, and investment settings to enhance the transfer of climate-relevant information, decision-making tools, and CSA technologies to support the scaling efforts through commercialization.

During a panel discussion on scaling CSA, Dr. Helena Shilomboleni, a scaling expert at AICCRA – ESA, stressed that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are vital in commercialization as they drive more than 80% of agricultural activities in Eastern and Central Africa.

However, these actors struggle to secure finance. Although much of the current funding for SMEs come through bilateral donor funding, there is untapped potential available through multilateral financing streams to advance climate-smart agricultural practices.

Finally, the workshop focused on the role that mainstream media and communication channels play in providing vital climate information, advisory, and extension services.

Media representatives from Kenya News Agency and Fana Broadcasting of Ethiopia and the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) raised their institutions’ critical responsibility in providing verified, evidence-backed, timely, and adequate climate data and tools and platforms to farmers and extension agents.

All participants confirmed that media channels and digital extension systems are instrumental in disseminating the awareness and efforts of commercializing CSA practices in the region.

Therefore, they must be considered integral stakeholders in each country’s dialogue.

As a strategic partner of CAADP-XP4 and AICCRA–ESA, ASARECA, in association with its policymaking, research, private sector, and farmer organizations partners, plans to host follow-up consultative workshops involving the 14-strong member countries in the East and Central Africa region to foster cross-country and cross-regional spillovers and facilitate South-South learning, knowledge-sharing, and capacity building.

AICCRA East and Southern Africa team

John Recha, Science Officer

Helen Shilomboleni, Scaling Expert

Joab Osumba, Research Officer

Maren Radeny, Science Officer

Dawit Solomon, Program Leader

Brook Makonnen, Communications Specialist