East and Southern Africa


The Africa RISING East and Southern Africa Project is implemented in the maize-dominated cereal−legume farming systems of Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia. In Phase 1 (2011–2016) the project implemented research activities aimed at establishing best-bet technologies that would deliver adoptable development solutions to smallholder farm families. The project envisions that, by 2021, at least 300,000 smallholder farm households will have had access to Africa RISING technologies in the 3 counrties.

Based on the experiences and lessons learned from Phase 1, the expected outcomes of the Africa RISING East and Southern Africa project in Phase 2 are:

  • Outcome 1: Productivity, diversity, and income of crop−livestock systems in selected agroecologies enhanced under climate variability.
  • Outcome 2: Natural resource integrity and resilience to climate change enhanced for the target communities and agroecologies.
  • Outcome 3: Food and feed safety, nutritional quality, and income security of target smallholder families improved equitably (within households).
  • Outcome 4: Functionality of input and output markets and other institutions to deliver demand-driven sustainable intensification research products improved.
  • Outcome 5: Partnerships for the scaling of sustainable intensification research products and innovations operationalized.
Characteristics and challenges of the East and Southern Africa farming systems

A number of key challenges affect agricultural productivity in East and Southern Africa. The region is dominated by small-scale, resource-poor farmers whose livelihoods depend on rain-fed crop, livestock, and crop− livestock farming systems. The main staple crops are cereals (maize, sorghum, millet, rice) and legumes (groundnut, beans, cowpea, soybean, pigeon pea). Livestock are mainly cattle, poultry, and small ruminants.

These enterprises operate in diverse agroecological zones in the three countries and are characterized by land degradation, with the arid and semi-arid areas exhibiting the highest levels of soil loss. The soils in the region are also inherently poor in terms of fertility making this a leading biophysical cause of low agricultural productivity. The situation is further compounded by low use of mineral fertilizers and organic amendments. For example, in Babati District of Tanzania, Africa RISING studies established that at least 52% of the fields had negative nutrient balances yet only about 3% of the households use mineral fertilizers.

Livestock offer an opportunity for improving security in food, nutrition, and income. However, productivity is low due to shortages in quality feed, expensive and thus unaffordable commercial feeds for many farmers, and inappropriate husbandry (feeding, health care, housing) practices. Local breeds dominate the livestock enterprise.

In general, the crop and livestock enterprises are weakly integrated for mutual enhancement and synergistic benefits to the farmers.

According to the World Resources Institute, approximately 23% of the available food in sub-Saharan Africa is lost or wasted. This is equal to the loss of 545 kilocalories per person a day across a subcontinent where 24.8% of the population is undernourished. In addition to this massive food loss, mycotoxin contamination is equally a challenge caused and/ or increased by poor handling of the produce and processing during storage. It was established during Phase 1 that in a maize-based farming system in the semi-arid areas of Central and Northern Tanzania, quantitative pre- and postharvest losses of economic importance occur in the field (15%), during processing (13−20%), and during storage (15−25%).

The diets of most rural, poor farm families are often dominated by the intake of basic staple foods (e.g., maize, rice, millet, and sorghum) which are usually deficient in micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc needed to prevent malnutrition. The nutritional status of most farm household members, especially pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children below 24 months of age, is therefore poor, leading to chronic malnutrition. For example, stunting for the new born exceeds 15% in Tanzania.

Farmers have limited access to input and output markets and enabling institutions and policies are lacking. Due to inadequacies of traditional promotional and scaling-up/out pathways, there is a large unmet demand for information about improved agricultural technologies and for access to the technologies themselves, especially by women. This has led to low adoption of improved technologies and best practices to reduce food and nutrition insecurity, poverty, and natural resource degradation.

Project interventions

Through a participatory and demand-driven approach to research, project partners are implementing adaptive research on various technologies and working with development organizations to get them into the hands of farmers at scale. The activities include testing and disseminating:

  1. improved crop varieties (drought and Striga resistant food and feed crops),
  2. appropriate agronomic practices (planting density, cereal−legume rotations and intercropping, multiple cropping, increasing cropping cycles within a season, efficient use of input resources and agroforestry),
  3. climate-smart land management practices (conservation agriculture, physical barriers to soil and water loss, in-situ water harvesting, and soil cover crops),
  4. improved animal husbandry practices (semi-intensive and intensive management); and
  5. technologies for reducing pre- and postharvest losses.

The project also facilitates linkages between farmers and input/output markets. The objective is to build well-integrated and productive crop and livestock enterprises that minimize natural resource degradation.

To diversify household nutrition, the project is introducing new nutritious food preparation techniques based on locally available ingredients for household members, particularly children. Nutrition field schools are being used to promote knowledge exchange on best practices for processing and storage of cereals, legumes, and vegetable-based foods.

Group and individual trainings are conducted to strengthen the capacities of all actors (farmers, research and extension staff, input and output dealers, and policy makers). Academic training at the MSc and PhD level is applied to address important knowledge gaps, and to develop the “next” generation of scientists. Information exchange is being promoted through field days, radio programs, exchange visits, and video shows.

The project gives special attention to gender equality and underprivileged groups within the society. Enabling policies and institutions to improve access to input and output markets, formation of effective partnerships, and access to knowledge and information are advocated for, especially through operational level R4D/Innovation platforms.

Innovative scaling pathways

Scaling of validated technologies to smallholder farm households by working through innovative partnerships is at the core of the Africa RISING East and Southern Africa project strategy. Through three sub-projects funded by respective USAID country missions in Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia, improved agricultural technologies are disseminated to farmers and adaptive research informed by the development partners is implemented by scientists to achieve the project’s scaling targets and livelihood improvement goals. This new paradigm is called Research in Development (R-in-D).

Africa RISING-NAFAKA scaling project (Tanzania)

The Africa RISING-NAFAKA scaling project (Enhancing partnership among Africa RISING, NAFAKA, and TUBORESHE CHAKULA Programs for fast tracking delivery and scaling of agricultural technologies in Tanzania) is an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project that aims to address smallholder farmers’ needs in the semi-arid and sub humid zones of Tanzania. The project is funded by the USAID Country Mission as part of the US Government’s Feed the Future Initiative.

Through participatory on-farm approaches, candidate technologies validated by Africa RISING are being scaled. This is achieved through the networks already established by Tanzania Staples Value Chain (NAFAKA) and other institutional grassroots organizations, creating an opportunity for mainstreaming into wider rural development programs, beyond Africa RISING’s original intervention sites.

Activities being implemented by partners this year
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