The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) shut down its activities in December 2020 at the end of its mandate. The administrative closure of the Centre was completed in November 2021.
Leading image

Innovative partnerships based on shared value accelerate the upscaling of CSA solutions



Many climate-smart agriculture (CSA) innovations have been developed to help farmers achieve the triple wins of adaptation, productivity and, where possible, reduced emissions. As efforts by different organisations move forward to improve adoption, it is clear that a wide range of factors influence uptake of CSA. Field experiences with CSA projects in three countries highlight how developing shared value among partners has supported the scaling up of CSA.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) means different things to different actors. Groups interested in CSA may range from farmers, who want to achieve a minimum threshold of food under climatic uncertainties, to the private sector, who may view CSA as a way to expand their businesses or increase profit, or to ensure a constant flow of agricultural raw materials to minimise downtimes in installed machine capacity. Other players include policy-makers, who may seek options to achieve their agricultural policy goals and development agenda, despite the vagaries of the weather.

A CTA-led project, Scaling-up climate-smart agricultural solutions for cereals and livestock farmers in Southern Africa, seeks to improve the food security and income of farmers under climatic uncertainties in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. During the design and scaling up phases of the initiative, partners were keen to avoid the common pitfall of poor sustainability linked to donor funding. As a result, the private sector was involved from the outset.

Given the various interests at play, prior to field implementation CTA engaged with different stakeholders in the region through a climate forum organised to review the concept and rationale of the project, and its objectives. The idea was to listen to different stakeholders, and modify the planned project implementation approaches.

Shortlisting CSA solutions

Several options for CSA solutions were evaluated, but the final choice of solutions to implement was revised based on their ability to respond to the shared value of key actors. Factors taken into account included relevance to the needs of farmers, response to markets, alignment with government priorities and policy frameworks, and potential for co-investment and leverage by the private sector. Also important was the opportunity to build economies of scale while supporting CSA. The choice of project sites and location was jointly determined with the group of actors, based on information about existing or previous similar initiatives, lessons learned, and the potential to build on them, and create sufficient shared value.

In each country, multi-partnership models were set up to support the scaling up of CSA. The partners targeted were private weather data providers, insurance and telephone mobile companies. Also engaged were government agricultural extension (including agricultural information services) and meteorological departments.

  • In Zambia, a tripolar partnership model was established, consisting of a knowledge institution specialised in using ICTs for adult open distance learning, a private insurance company, and a rural development NGO.
  • In Zimbabwe, a bi-polar partnership model consisting of the national farmers’ organisation and a private mobile/insurance company was formed.
  • In Malawi, the partnership is de facto unipolar, as the national farmers’ association was the main implementing agency.

Sustainable push and pull

It was observed that each of the partners is drawn to CSA for different reasons but also according to the extent they buy into the shared value among the actors. The shared value encourages them to leverage one another, bringing their comparative advantage to the partnership to achieve project objectives.

The private sector provides information about market segmentation and targeting of potential beneficiaries. For example, private companies involved were able to segment where the project sites had the most market potential, to shape the project’s target areas. In return, they were able to obtain better market penetration for their products.

The farmers’ organisations provided access to farmer databases and information, which allowed the private sector to achieve market expansion. The government agencies benefited from the capacity-building offered by the project, as well as its contributions to their objective to deliver robust approaches to food security in the face of climate uncertainties. Opportunities have also been provided to agro-dealers, who have spotted market gaps for CSA-linked business, with increased orders from farmers for drought tolerant seeds.

Key messages we draw from this experience are:

  • Financial and technological capital in the private sector must be harnessed to complement donor and other public sector-driven climate support in delivering climate-smart agricultural solutions at scale.
  • CSA initiatives must make sense to all partners so they sustain partners’ interest and lead to active engagement.
  • Sustainable partnerships to scale-up CSA increase when there are clearly defined and mutual benefits for all partners.

Transparency, trust, and shared decision-making help partnerships be strong and vibrant.

This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.


Seed fairs: an innovative climate-smart practice to obtain stress-tolerant seeds

by , , and

A major concern for smallholder farmers at the start of each season is to choose and source seeds, and with the advent of climate change, this is more critical than ever. As part of a CTA-led initiative to help farmers counter drought and other extreme weather events, seed fairs are being organised in Zambia to improve access to quality seed of stress tolerant maize varieties for smallholder farmers.

Delivering bundled digital products and services for climate-smart agriculture in Zimbabwe

by and

In Zimbabwe, climate change is emerging as the most serious threat to agriculture. To address the challenge, a leading farmers’ organisation has teamed up with a private sector telecoms company to provide bundled climate-smart agriculture products and services to farmers.

Adopting climate-smart agricultural innovations in Southern Africa: Knowledge alone is not enough

by and

Some say that knowledge is power. In the knowledge age, information and ideas are touted as raw materials that are as important as other tangible resources such as land, labour and money. In the agriculture sector, this is also true, with information playing key roles in farmer adaptation and resilience building. But recent experiences from a field project to upscale climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Southern Africa show that by itself, knowledge of proven climate smart agricultural innovation is not enough to ensure farmer uptake.

Farmer organisations promote youth entrepreneurship – Lessons from Zimbabwe

by , and

Farmer organisations have a key role to play in encouraging youth to stay in the agricultural sector, and pursue agro-based livelihoods. Crucially, they have strong potential in helping young people to become thriving agripreneurs, through the provision of training and opportunities to develop their skills, as well as by linking youth to key players in the agricultural value chain.

Be sure you don't miss our latest updates.