CRFS’s East & Southern Africa (ESAf) CoP comprises project teams in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. The region’s cropping systems are based on maize, sorghum, and root crops. System productivity is low due to climatic, biotic, and abiotic challenges, including weathered soils with low and declining fertility, erratic rainfall exacerbated by climate change, field and storage pest infestations, limited access to quality seed, poor dissemination of production technologies, and underdeveloped value chains and markets.
Rural people across the region face high levels of poverty and food and nutrition insecurity. Agriculture is the main employment sector, yet it receives little public investment. Many poor people inhabit relatively agriculturally favorable areas, but population pressure has created land degradation and division. Women and youth play key roles in agriculture but have limited access to resources. Diets are high in carbohydrates and often low in diversity and nutritional value.
The CoP aims to improve the performance of smallholder farming by taking a systems approach, addressing several constraints and opportunities simultaneously. It supports crop improvement and diversification as well as development of management strategies that enhance crop access to scarce soil nutrients and water resources and reduce pest and disease losses. ESAf focuses on agroecological research that integrates agroecological principles into farm management. Examples of crop diversification strategies include improving farmer access to greater varietal diversity within the crops they already grow; introducing them to new crops that can offer multiple benefits such as improved nutrition, soil fertility enhancement, sources income; and strengthening breeding/value chains for diverse crops.
The region supports collaboration among farmers, development professionals and researchers through farmer research networks (FRNs) to develop and integrated technology options for diverse agroecological and socioeconomic contexts. FRNs facilitate active participation of farmers representing diverse groups across the research cycle; research that is rigorous and relevant to farmer needs; and networks that foster learning and sharing.