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

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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.

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