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Africa: CGIAR aims to promote resilient agrifood systems

CGIAR aims to promote resilient agrifood systems

On March 2–3, 2022, the partners of the CGIAR new regional integrated Initiative for Eastern and Southern Africa met in Nairobi for a kick-off meeting. National agricultural research extension programs, government leaders, business sector actors, donors, and national and regional agricultural research and development organizations were among the 85 people that took part.

The Initiative, dubbed Ukama Ustawi, aims to support climate-smart agriculture and livelihoods in 12 eastern and southern African countries: Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe (in Phase 1); Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda (in Phase 2); and Eswatini, Madagascar, Mozambique, and South Africa (in Phase 3). (in Phase 3).

Through increased extension services, institutional capacity strengthening, targeted farm management bundles, policy assistance, enterprise development, and private investment, the Initiative intends to help millions of smallholders intensify, diversify, and de-risk maize-mixed farming.

Ukama Ustawi is a Shona and Swahili term that combines the two languages. Ukama signifies partnerships in Shona, and Ustawi means well-being and progress in Swahili. They are similar to the Initiative’s aim of system-level growth through innovative collaborations.

The gathering brought partners together to get to know one another, discuss roles and duties, set priorities for 2022, and examine Ukama Ustawi’s cross-cutting programmatic underpinnings, such as gender and social inclusion, capacity building, and learning.

“CCARDESA, in its cooperation and coordination mandate, can learn a lot from CGIAR in restructuring to adjust to the changing circumstances,” said Baitsi Podisi, who represents the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). Working with partners such as CCARDESA, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, Podisi supported the partnership with CGIAR in the Initiative’s embedded approach to policy dialogue (FANRPAN).

Similarly, Francis Hale of FANRPAN stressed the importance of working with partners who already have convening power to push the policy agenda for diversification and sustainable intensification rather than reinventing the wheel.

The utilization of four interconnected platforms by Ukama Ustawi is one of its distinguishing features: a scaling hub, a policy hub, an accelerator program, and a learning platform. These will serve as hubs for collaboration and learning among CGIAR Initiatives in the region. Partners had a series of ‘fishbowl’ meetings across work packages to evaluate planned activities and provide a deeper understanding of deliverables, as well as discover synergies, potential overlaps, shared partners and nations, and set timetables.

Millions of farmers in eastern and southern Africa will have their knowledge, attitudes, and practices changed thanks to the Initiative’s unique multimedia platforms. The Shamba Shape Up TV show and the iShamba digital platform are two significant partners in this field. Sophie Rottman, the producer of Shamba Shape Up, expressed excitement about working with Initiative partners to bring the show to Uganda and Zambia.

“It is time we shift away from CGIAR-initiated development programs and toward country-initiated development activities,” stated Jean Claude Rubyogo, representing the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA). This is the essence of Ukama Ustawi.”

CGIAR’s regional integrated programs, according to Martin Kropff, Global Director of Resilient Agrifood Systems at CGIAR, are meant to respond to national/regional requests. “The efforts will begin by collaborating with partners to examine the region’s food and nutritional concerns and developing new solutions to address them.

The event was finished with an agreement on the implementation of the Ukama Ustawi Initiative’s inception phase, as well as follow-up negotiations to finalize important activities in 2022.