The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) confirms closure by end of 2020.

CTA Strategy Refresh 2018-2020

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has been providing invaluable services to the agricultural and rural development community in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) for over 30 years. Established under the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement in 1983, CTA works to shape the next generation of farming and contribute to the transformation of agriculture in the ACP by providing access to technology, fostering innovation and sharing actionable knowledge.

In 2016 CTA launched a new Strategic Plan for 2016–2020 to address the major challenges small-scale producers in the ACP face. The aim of the plan was to contribute to the development of inclusive, profitable and sustainable value chains and markets that are nutrition sensitive, climate-smart and benefit small-scale producers, women and youth. 

The strategy has successfully provided direction for the organisation as it builds a programme to deliver an ambitious set of targets. This Strategy Refresh, which builds on the 2016–2020 plan, follows extensive discussions with partners, staff and the Executive Board and takes into account new challenges and opportunities that CTA must respond to in order to stay on track and meet its targets.

Responding to a changing external environment

While the challenges and opportunities stated in CTA’s 2016–2020 strategy are still valid, a number of new ones have emerged in the external environment in which CTA operates and the Centre needs to take these into consideration.


The world’s population is expected to reach almost 9.6 billion by 2050.

This, together with increasing urbanisation and changing diets, means that food production has to increase by between 59% and 98% by 2015.

However, there is little scope for increasing the amount of land under crops or livestock without causing environmental harm, hence increases in production will have to come from increased yields. This will require ‘sustainable intensification’ – producing more from the same area of land – through smart farming, advanced irrigation technology and environmentally friendly, climate-smart production systems.

However, climate change is already having an impact on food production. Heatwaves, drought, more and different pests and diseases affecting crops and livestock, soil erosion and salinisation, ocean acidification, extreme storms and floods and other natural disasters such as wildfires are expected to significantly reduce the productivity of many crops, livestock and fisheries. In addition, agriculture is itself a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The impact on food and nutrition is complex. The number of people who are hungry is on the rise after more than a decade of decline. FAO estimated the number of undernourished people at 815 million in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015.

This is largely due to the effects of conflicts and climate change. Malnutrition – including overweightedness, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia – is also on the rise. Although almost one in four children under five – 155 million – is stunted, at the same time, 41 million children under five are overweight. More than 2 billion people are now overweight or obese.

Multiple burdens of malnutrition is now the new normal

The burden of obesity is particularly acute in the Pacific, where the trend has been worsening in recent years. Hunger, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies – the so-called triple burden of malnutrition – are increasingly found together, even within individual households. 

The so-called youth bulge in Africa has particular significance for agricultural development. Sixty percent of the population of Africa is under 24 years of age. If current trends continue, there will be 512 million youths in Africa by 2025 and it is estimated that 181 million of them will be underemployed or unemployed by 2050. The challenge today, and in the coming decades, is to find decent employment opportunities for young people, especially in the agriculture sector. This will be crucial to help reduce migration, which is often driven by high unemployment, increasing susceptibility to working poverty and a lack of good quality job prospects. The migrant and refugee crisis is overwhelming the international system, diverting significant resources from development efforts in agriculture and rural development.

These crises and trends create an unprecedented challenge to agriculture, food and nutrition security across the ACP region.


There are many exciting opportunities that have become increasingly attractive since CTA drafted its last strategy. Key among these is the transformative force of digitalisation – the use of digital technologies and data to transform agriculture. 

This is underpinned by a dramatic growth in connectivity throughout the ACP: in 2016, there were 787 million mobile phone subscriptions across the ACP, representing 72% penetration in the population (World Bank data, 2016).This has enabled communication to become mobile and social, to operate in real time, inspiring incredible innovation and inventive new tools and services. The availability of mobile banking, for example, has increased significantly, improving farmers’ ability to make payments and save and borrow money as well as allowing them to buy inputs, access training, buy crop insurance and obtain market information.

Satellite data, weather stations, mobile technology and related innovations are helping smart farming take root. Farmers are using sensors to provide valuable information such as soil moisture and nutrient levels. They can receive imagery from satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, through their mobile phones, giving them information that guides their use of fertilisers, pest control and irrigation and the timing of their harvest. With the barriers to entry into smart farming technology falling (through, for example, cheaper connectivity, open-source software and cloud computing) there is enormous potential for all ACP farmers to benefit, no matter what the size of their holding is.

Another major opportunity is the increasing potential of agribusiness in ACP countries. The combination of new digital technology, growing urban populations (especially the middle class), rising incomes and increasing urbanisation creates new impetus for the private sector to invest in agriculture, as do initiatives such as the African Union’s 2014 Malabo Declaration, which calls for renewed focus and action on agricultural development in Africa and repeats an earlier commitment to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture. The global demand for affordable and safe food will continue to increase, providing market opportunities across the ACP. It is not only large agribusinesses that benefit from these opportunities: many entrepreneurial farmers and farmers’ organisations are going beyond production and engaging in the distribution and processing segments of food value chains, especially those linked to increasing urban demand.

The expanded role of the private sector in agriculture is also being facilitated by a range of new support mechanisms that make available blended public and private finance. In addition, public-private partnership is becoming an important model for financing and implementation. For example, sustainable agriculture is one of the priority areas in the European External Investment Plan, launched in 2017 by the EU to catalyse private sector investment in Africa and neighbouring countries.

Furthermore, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the international community in September 2015, give prominence to food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture (SDG2). In addition, agriculture is central to meeting many of the other goals, such as no poverty (SDG1), employment (SDG5), gender equality (SDG8) and climate action (SDG13).

The Paris Climate Agreement, which was also adopted at the end of 2015 and came into force in November 2016, provides a similar roadmap for action on climate change. Agriculture plays a prominent role in these action plans, whether in terms of mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions or adapting to its effects: 94% of the 192 countries that have submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs) include agriculture under their mitigation or adaptation contributions, or both.

Climate change will have a dramatic impact on food production

By 2030, 9 out of 10 of the major crops will experience reduced or stagnant growth rates, while average price will increase dramatically as a result, at least in part due to climate change.   

Finally, the new European Consensus on Development, adopted in 2017, presents a shared vision and framework for development cooperation between the EU and its Member States. The main objective of the new consensus is poverty eradication, but it integrates the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Two priorities of the Consensus that are of particular importance to CTA are the focus on developing agricultural markets and value chains and encouraging agro-industry to generate jobs; and meeting the specific needs of youth by increasing quality employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, harnessing digital innovation capacity and creating opportunities for youth to benefit from technological progress.

CTA’s Mission and Vision  

MISSION: To advance food security, resilience and inclusive economic growth in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific through innovations in sustainable agriculture.

VISION: Smallholder agriculture as a vibrant, modern and sustainable business that creates value for farmers, entrepreneurs, youth and women, and produces affordable, nutritious and healthy food for all.

CTA priority intervention areas

To respond to the emerging challenges in the external environment and benefit from some of the new opportunities presented, CTA has identified three priority intervention areas (IAs) on which it will concentrate its efforts from 2018 to 2020. These are: youth entrepreneurship and employment; digitalisation; and climate resilience. Empowerment of women is a cross-cutting theme across these IAs. These are areas in which the Centre is already active, but in which it will also make further investments in the future. They build on the 2016–2020 Strategic Plan and address the strategic goals, priorities and cross-cutting theme.

The IAs will contribute to many of the SDGs, primarily SDG2 (zero hunger), but also to SDG1 (no poverty), SDG5 (gender equality), SDG8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 13 (climate action). They will help CTA to meet the impact targets in the Centre’s corporate logframe, namely: increasing production, income and sustainable agriculture practices for 1 million small-scale producers; creating 5,000 new jobs; helping 200,000 small-scale producers adapt to climate change; and providing more nutritious diets to 200,000 ACP inhabitants.


Promoting youth entrepreneurship and employment through access to ICTs and business development services

Youth employment is a pressing challenge throughout the ACP. The UN predicts the median age in Africa will be only 24 years by 2050, compared with 41 years in the Caribbean and about 35 years in the Pacific Island states of the ACP.6 Today, most young people in the ACP work in low-income and low-productivity jobs, with the majority of these being in the agricultural sector. There is enormous potential for the sector if the youth bulge is engaged productively. There are also great threats in the form of political instability, unwanted migration and other challenges if this demographic dividend is not effectively channelled.

For a number of years, CTA has been a leading player in efforts to empower youth through its focus on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and youth entrepreneurship. Through numerous initiatives, such as Web 2.0 and social media learning opportunities, and Plug & Play, AgriHack and Pitch AgriHack events, CTA has identified promising young entrepreneurs and helped them build their businesses by showcasing their businesses and linking them to financial services and coaching.

Youth entrepreneurs and those institutions supporting youth-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face a number of challenges, including limited capacity; limited access to business development services (BDS); poor connections to markets; and limited access to effective training, mentorship, tools and methodologies. CTA will use this IA to strengthen the capacity of entrepreneurs and BDS providers to address their problems through access to finance and markets, showcasing best practices and innovative business models and creating job opportunities in established agribusinesses. Additionally, the Centre will support the training of BDS trainers by providing technical support and developing new tools and methodologies. CTA will work to increase the number of employment opportunities and income for young people; training opportunities for young people; the number of youth-owned businesses; and the knowledge products developed with the support of the programme.

In this IA, CTA is leveraging its track record in youth and ICTs and its wide network of partners (e.g. the African Development Bank, African Agribusiness Incubators Network, AfriLabs and the International Fund for Agricultural Development). The Centre is also working directly through established incubators and BDS providers, agricultural organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), business associations, agribusinesses and ICT firms.


Increasing productivity and profitability for smallholder farmers through digitalisation and innovative business practices

Digitalisation of agriculture has the potential to transform smallholder farming in the ACP, significantly improving productivity and profitability and encouraging young people to engage in the agriculture sector through the domain of ICTs. CTA is a global leader in the promotion of digital technology as an enabler for sustainable agriculture and is at the forefront of promoting digital entrepreneurship and digital literacy. Key focuses for the Centre have been the role of women and testing of new models for financing and for building the capacity of farmers’ organisations.

As a leader in the drive towards smart farming for smallholder producers, CTA is promoting the use of new ICTs such as UAVs. This includes testing the technology, identifying and characterising markets and supporting business development and policy reform. The use of satellite data is a strong focus, with multiple projects across several countries. Big data is another area in which the Centre works, supporting farmer registration and development of data management systems for smallholder farmers, as well as spearheading policy changes.

This IA will be larger in scope than the other two IAs. It focuses on increasing the productivity and profitability of agribusiness SMEs, farmer-led businesses and farmers’ organisations by leveraging digital solutions and strengthening innovation. The main problems these actors face are production inefficiency, inadequate market access, poor business performance and limited access to technologies and innovations.

To address these problems, CTA will promote the use of digital solutions, including satellite and UAV-generated data, weather information, soil sensors, blockchain technology and other similar innovations across the value chain. Taking advantage of growing connectivity and availability of low-cost digital tools, CTA will also support farmers’ access to new finance and insurance services. The Centre will continue to support market-access applications, BDS and new platforms that can provide multiple digital services. As part of this IA, CTA will monitor increases in production, profitability and incomes; access to financial and other services; and adoption of innovations, especially those linked to digitalisation and changes in policies and regulations.

The Centre will leverage its network of partners at different levels: global (e.g. Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition [GODAN], AgriCord and Rabobank Foundation); regional (e.g. the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa, the Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation, and the Pacific Community [SPC]) and nationally (e.g. ICT service providers, financial service providers, farmers’ organisations and governments).


Building smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate change through the promotion of climate-smart agriculture practices

Climate change is already having a major impact on agricultural productivity, especially in tropical and subtropical areas. These impacts will continue, with changes in rainfall patterns, higher mean temperatures, increased variability in both rainfall and temperature, changes

in water availability, a rise in sea levels, increased salinisation of soils and groundwater and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather. Currently, the most prominent obstacles facing smallholder farmers in ACP countries are ineffective delivery of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) solutions to farmers, inadequate supply-driven CSA solutions, a weak enabling environment and limited acknowledgement of indigenous knowledge and farmer-driven innovations.

CTA is testing new approaches to CSA by promoting the use of stress-tolerant seeds and the uptake of weather advisory and insurance services and by exploring new climate finance models that build on those currently being developed by the Centre in eastern and southern Africa. 

The Centre is also creating innovative market-led delivery mechanisms that build on ICT services and facilitating better access to innovative solutions such as bundling CSA with other services (e.g. mobile phone providers offering farmers weather information together with funeral cover). CTA will also facilitate farmers’ access to new CSA technologies (e.g. improved plant varieties and animal breeds) and test new delivery approaches, especially new extension services appropriate for CSA. The Centre will also focus on enhancing knowledge processes and information dissemination, building the evidence base for the benefits of adopting CSA at the farm level in ACP countries and facilitating NDCs and other policy development processes to promote the uptake of CSA by farmers. As part of this IA, CTA tracks the number of farmers who adopt CSA practices, the increase in the number of market-based service providers offering CSA solutions, the number of national policy adaptation/adjustment processes initiated and the knowledge products created.

To deliver this IA, CTA will continue to support work in the field in partnership with NGOs, local governments, intermediaries (agribusinesses, mobile phone service providers, insurers and weather services), knowledge generators (research projects and think tanks) and policy bodies.

Cross-cutting theme: gender

Gender is a priority theme across the IAs and central to the work of the programme teams. CTA has a gender strategy built around three main areas of intervention: engaging women in agribusiness and value chains, increasing their participation in policy processes and building their capacity in ICTs and knowledge management. CTA will continue to focus on empowering women in all of its operations, programmes and projects across the ACP. One of its major agribusiness initiatives is Value4Her, which is aimed specifically at strengthening women-led agribusinesses across the ACP.

Programme teams

To implement the IAs, CTA will make use of its programme teams. These manage the project portfolio and house the skills and expertise in key areas where CTA has defined its comparative advantage. These programme teams are concentrated in three areas.

Agribusiness and value chains

CTA’s agribusiness and value chains team works to support agribusinesses of different sizes that can underpin commercially viable value chains and focuses on key ACP food value chains such as rice, cassava and grains. The priority has been on promoting the development of regional market-oriented and competitive agribusiness sectors, providing opportunities for farmers to get involved in more aspects of the value chain than primary production through various support mechanisms. CTA’s agribusiness and value chains team supports the work of the IAs by developing a broad range of business services designed to help agribusiness SMEs and farmers’ organisations overcome barriers to increasing productivity and profitability and improving their access to high-value markets. The Centre will also prioritise improving access to financial services and develop entrepreneurial capacities of agribusiness SMEs and farmers’ organisations. CTA will also continue to strengthen the links between agriculture and nutrition through the promotion of nutrition-sensitive agriculture among policy-makers and institutions in ACP countries. The Centre is committed to ensuring that investments made in agriculture and across value chains result in better nutrition outcomes – increasing access to affordable, nutritious food.

ICTs for agriculture

CTA is a leader in the use of ICTs for agriculture and has been at the forefront of introducing and adapting new innovations to benefit farmers and others involved in the agriculture sector in ACP countries. This team is delivering programmes in three areas: youth entrepreneurship, with a specific focus on ICTs; smart farming and data for decision-making support systems, utilising UAV and satellite technology to provide data; and building business linkages for farmers and farmer organisations by promoting ICTs and market intelligence systems. In all three IAs, CTA differentiates its role by leading through the use of ICTs.

Communications and knowledge management

Sharing information and increasing access to knowledge has been a central part of CTA’s work from the outset. The Centre has invested in numerous platforms to share information and knowledge, as well as in developing innovative approaches to capitalise on knowledge and experience. This CTA programme team is focused on two areas: sharing knowledge and communication innovations to help CTA project partners deliver better results and communicating outcomes to influence investment choices and decisions. Both of these areas are critical to the success of CTA’s work in the three IAs.

Learning, monitoring and evaluation

CTA places monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment at the forefront of implementing its strategy. This helps to ensure that it is accountable and results-oriented and remains a learning organisation. Systematic data collection and the development of an IT-based business intelligence portal that supports management decision-making means that learning, monitoring and evaluation (LME) also plays a central role in strengthening CTA’s capacity for capturing and managing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data on the entire project portfolio. Led by its LME Unit, CTA will monitor its progress towards achieving the targets described in the corporate logframe and supporting the formulation and implementation of M&E plans for all major projects. Demonstrating results and impacts linked to corporate targets is a top priority in each IA.

CTA’S comparative advantage

THE TEAM: CTA’s specialist and multicultural staff enhance its ability to apply a multidisciplinary and participatory approach to its projects, drawing on extensive experience in the ACP region.

THE COMMUNITY: CTA has an active community of more than 200,000 individuals across ACP agricultural communities through its virtual platforms. The community can be harnessed to share innovations and catalyse collaboration.

THE PARTNERSHIP: CTA operates through partnerships with a wide range of institutions, including regional organisations, government agencies, international bodies, farmer organisations, youth and women’s groups and research and academic institutions.

THE CONNECTIONS: As a joint ACP-EU institution, CTA connects with ACP countries through its unique governance structure, staff drawn from the region and its networks of experts.

THE BRAND: CTA is well-recognised across the ACP for its popular publications such as Spore, capacity building initiatives such as AgriHacks and knowledge-sharing events such as the Brussels Briefings and thematic conferences.  


CTA will continue to make demonstrating the impacts of its programme and project investments a priority. At the apex of its impact model is contributing to the SDGs, primarily SDG2 (zero hunger), but also SDG1 (no poverty), SDG5 (gender equality), SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), and SDG 13 (climate action) through reaching its impact targets by 2020. These targets are:

  • increasing production, income, and sustainable agriculture practices for 1 million small-scale producers
  • creating 5,000 new jobs
  • helping 200,000 small-scale producers adapt to climate change
  • providing more nutritious diets to 200,000 ACP inhabitants

All major CTA programme and project investments are aligned with these corporate targets and have been designed to contribute directly to these organisational goals.

  • shifting the programme implementation focus from largely regional flagship projects to a portfolio approach, with investment in multiple projects in each IA across the ACP;
  • engaging to a greater extent in projects where there are opportunities for co-financing and/or likelihood of reaching CTA’s impact targets;
  • concentrating on fewer, larger project investments to ensure that CTA projects reach scale and can attract co-financing to expand the potential impact;
  • increasing efforts to directly reach small-scale producers with interventions that will increase their productivity, incomes and sustainability, balancing this with capacity development at the individual and institutional level, which will continue to be a major priority for CTA;
  • revising the Centre’s approach to impact evaluation, expanding investment in the independent validation of results through surveys, including baseline assessments.


CTA is renowned throughout the ACP for its support for and partnership with a wide range of public, civil society and private sector organisations in agricultural development. This partnership is central in delivering CTA’s training and capacity building activities, publishing and dissemination services, knowledge-exchange platforms, policy forums and other key outputs and impact. Building strong partnerships will continue to be a central feature of the Centre’s operations as it delivers the Strategy Refresh.

Farmers’ organisations, cooperatives, women’s and youth groups

Research, universities, meteorology and weather data companies

Governmental organisations and other public bodies

nsurance companies, telecoms, seed companies