East & Southern Africa CoP

Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi

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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.


All East & Southern Africa Grants
  • Community Food Sustainability, Soil/Water Conservation

    East & Southern Africa

  • Maize

    FRNs and METs for Soil, Maize-Legume, and Livelihoods

    East & Southern Africa

  • Co-Developed Options for Sustainable, Resilient Systems

    East & Southern Africa

  • Kenya AE Hub 3: Supporting FRN Priorities

    East & Southern Africa


  • FRN–NGO in Western Kenya

    FRN–NGO operates in Kenya’s lake zone, one of the most densely settled parts of the country and a region where poverty, natural resource degradation, and food insecurity levels are high. Challenges include scarce land and water resources, declining soil productivity, high pest and disease incidences, changing climatic conditions, and limited access to resources for women, who are the main drivers of agricultural production. People are highly dependent on farming for their livelihoods, and rains are becoming less predictable and crop failures more frequent.

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  • Best Bets III FRN in Malawi

    Productivity on smallholder farms in Malawi is generally very low. Yields of the main subsistence crop, maize, are substantially below what could be achieved with improved crop management. Soil fertility is declining, so the productive capacity of farms is being eroded. Low incomes mean that few farmers can afford to purchase inorganic fertilizer, and the number of them benefitting from government input subsidies has fallen drastically. Individual land holdings are small and, in many areas, only one crop can be grown per year. Erratic rainfall—floods and dry spells—also has an impact on crop production. As a result, a large number of people do not produce enough food to meet their needs. So, too, do they lack diversity in their diets, which adversely affects the health of farm families. The incidence of stunting in children under 5 years of age averages 46 percent.

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