AICCRA / Kelvin Trautman, KANDS Collective
AICCRA / Kelvin Trautman, KANDS Collective

Scaling agriculture science and innovation for a climate-resilient future in Africa

Simeon Ehui, Loraine Ronchi, Katie Kennedy Freeman and Ana Maria Loboguerrero explore the impact of AICCRA's partnerships for the World Bank blog.

Nowhere does the challenge of climate change manifest more acutely and urgently than in African agriculture. 

“Climate change is real and threatens crop and livestock systems, impacting agricultural businesses and undermining livelihoods,” says Esther Zulu, a farmer and community leader from Zambia’s Nyimba District.

Around 250 million small-scale African farmers, who operate on plots smaller than one hectare, play a crucial role in sustaining the continent's food supply by producing approximately 70 percent of it.  

However, with the African population projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, there is a pressing need to enhance their capacity to produce nutritious food and meet the growing demands. It’s critical for Africa’s broader socioeconomic development that agriculture can adapt and become more resilient under climate change.

This is a strategic priority for African governments, the continent’s regional organizations and the African Union. 

Science and innovation in agriculture must be brought to the forefront of Africa’s development agenda as a public good.  Similarly, digital technologies have a crucial role to play in addressing the limitations of existing extension services and meeting the evolving needs of farmers. These technologies offer valuable solutions to enhance labor and land productivity and provide real-time monitoring of climate risks, enabling proactive measures for building resilience. 

But to date, too little has been achieved in realizing the full potential of Africa’s National Agricultural Research Systems, who bring together public and private research organizations who often lead research in agriculture for development. 

We know which "climate-smart" innovations and services work for small-scale farmers.  This is thanks to five decades of science and innovation led by the world’s largest research group for food security called CGIAR.  

A new vision for scaling CGIAR innovation

The World Bank Group is actively exploring innovative approaches to enhance its support for CGIAR and its partners, aiming to facilitate the implementation of scientifically proven and validated innovations  on a larger and more ambitious scale.

Traditionally, the funding for fostering collaboration between CGIAR centers has primarily relied on contributions from international donors, whereas Africa's regional and national programs have often been financed through the budgets of African governments.

But in 2019, following the United Nations Climate Action Summit, the World Bank Group approved $60 million for Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) through its International Development Association (IDA).

The ambition was to catalyze stronger ties between CGIAR scientists and researchers with African food producers, policymakers, private sector leaders, community champions, media, and other stakeholders critical to the transformation of African agriculture.  

And so far, it’s working.