Strengthening agricultural knowledge and the innovation ecosystem for inclusive rural transformation and livelihoods in Eastern Africa (AIRTEA)
Africa’s agriculture is largely sustained by smallholder farmers, half of whom are women. However, poor access to markets and information on supply and demand is preventing them from achieving reasonable profit margins. The
expectation of low profits is discouraging young people from taking up agricultural activities and slowing down agricultural and rural development.
The capacity of youth and women in multi-stakeholder innovation platforms (IPs) will be strengthened, allowing them to take advantage of technological solutions within national, regional and global food systems, with an emphasis on technology design, transfer and uptake. Coupled with the establishment of Agricultural Business Learning Alliances (ABLAs), with business development and mentorship services, these collaboration mechanisms will lead to improved profitability and employment opportunities along agricultural commodity value chains in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
The development and adoption of agricultural technologies have not yet led to the desired improvement in food security, job creation and rural livelihoods in Eastern Africa, and have barely reached the marginalised rural population, especially youth and women. The traditional linear approach to technology development and adoption with limited engagement between researchers and end-users hinders the desired application of research results. Alternative approaches, such as Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D), that use multi-stakeholder IPs to ensure that research delivers an impact seem promising. However, a vast majority of the agrarian African population remains disconnected from the relevant inclusive innovation ecosystem, making it more difficult to achieve sustainable livelihoods and rural transformation. While on the production side small farmers lack information on innovation, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lack the capacity and information to develop their businesses, on the support side universities and research centres lack the capacity to transfer knowledge to end-users, and policy-makers lack the information from the field that they need to make informed decisions. Hence, there is a need to facilitate and broker multi-stakeholder partnerships among these groups to foster the co-creation and co-ownership of innovation, generate appropriate technologies, and increase their transfer and uptake, thereby enhancing rural livelihoods. Building capacities in ICT and other emerging digital technologies that promote production efficiencies along commodity value chains will help make the agricultural sector more attractive to youth and women and resolve the systemic weaknesses faced by service providers.