The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) is a sub regional not-for-profit association. It was established in 1994 by ten member States represented by their National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) following the approval of the Framework For Action (FFA) for agricultural research in Eastern and Central Africa by the Special Programme for Africa Agricultural Research (SPAAR). The original ten member States included Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. South Sudan joined the association at the General Assembly meeting convened in December, 2011, while Republic of the Congo joined in 2018, raising the membership of the regional Association to twelve (12).
Vision: A transformed ECA agricultural sector supporting improved livelihoods, sustained economic growth and inclusive development.
Mission: To contribute to increased productivity, commercialization and competitiveness of the ECA agricultural sector through strengthening, catalyzing and coordinating agricultural research for development in the ECA sub region.
Core Values: Inclusivity, Accountability, Transparency, Transformative, Sustainability, Subsidiarity and Integrity.
Context and background to ASARECA work
Smallholder farmers in Eastern and Central Africa face similar challenges. Many use poor quality inputs such as seeds and farm implements. Their farms are often under the threat of attack by menacing pests, diseases and weeds. This situation is aggravated by variable weather and declining natural resource base. As a result, farmers get poor yields from their crops and animals. In addition, lack of access to input and output markets, coupled with an environment of limiting trade policies, make farming a challenging business. These factors contribute to high levels of poverty among the farming communities in the sub-region. Owing to low returns from agricultural enterprises, the youth have abandoned farming in search of money-making ventures in urban areas leaving farming to the elderly, women and children. Although all these can be tackled at national level, the national systems have inadequate capacities to manage these challenges comprehensively. ASARECA is addressing these challenges in a regionally coordinated manner by working with critical partners that include farmers; national, regional and international research institutions, extension and training organizations; public and private sector actors, NGOs, Regional Economic Communities and development agencies.
Our key achievements over the last two and a half decades:
Over the last two and a half decades, projects supported by ASARECA have developed and promoted innovations and management practices such as improved varieties and seeds, water management, integrated soil fertility, agronomic packages, storage, value addition and marketing; and improved animal husbandry practices and fisheries management. Besides, ASARECA facilitated the development and harmonization of regional policies and standards that impact on agriculture and trade. An independent evaluation report sanctioned to assess the impact of our work shows that:
Benefits to households and individual farmers: A total of 228,349 rural households benefited directly from ASARECA-related support initiatives, and over 1.37 million individuals directly benefited from an assortment of ASARECA supported initiatives. Furthermore, 56,228 farmers and other stakeholders accessed and used new technologies, innovations and management practices (TIMPs) generated and availed for uptake from ASARECA supported project interventions.
Generated or improved technologies, innovations and management practices: A total of 364 different TIMPs were either generated or improved to suit farmers’ demands. A total of 435 demand-driven gender-responsive TIMPs were availed for uptake by targeted stakeholders.
Quality pre-basic, basic and certified seeds: Over 1,000 ha of land was dedicated to improved TIMPs, especially for production and multiplication of quality pre-basic, basic and certified seeds. Over 800 metric tons of quality seed of selected crops were produced and either sold or distributed to farmers for further multiplication.
Reclamation of degraded lands and watersheds: Over 5,000 ha of highly degraded lands and watersheds were reclaimed through ASARECA supported initiatives. This enabled the targeted households to have steady water supply for domestic and farm use.
Contribution to the establishment of enabling policy environments: ASARECA has contributed to the establishment of enabling policy environments through participation in the review of existing policies, laws, regulations and management practices. A total of 89 policies, laws, regulations and procedures were analyzed, 39 presented for legislation and dialogue, while 37 were approved by national legislative bodies, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Infrastructure capacity strengthening and partnership: As part of enhancing capacity strengthening of the NARS, over 400 assorted infrastructure and facilities were provided to targeted partner institutions particularly the weaker NARIs. At the same time, over 280 different partnerships were formed.
Human resource capacity strengthening: Over 60,000 persons (34,009 male and 30,887 female) were trained in the areas of integrated water management, value addition, integrated soil fertility management, value chain development, project management, monitoring and evaluation, environment and social safeguards, basic agronomic and management practices, among others. In addition, over 150 students (15 PhD, 112 MSc, 4 BSc and 19 Diploma/Certificate) benefited from ASARECA long-term training.
Production and delivery of information packages: ASARECA facilitated the production of over 700 different information packages that include peer reviewed journal articles, books, book chapters, electronic newsletters, policy briefs, conference proceedings and manuals. These products were made available through over 250 different delivery pathways such as websites, flyers, television, radio, short message system (SMS), dissemination events, media events, farm trials, and multimedia such as YouTube among others.
New Thematic Areas of Focus and Strategic Results
The ASARECA stakeholders and partners have identified what it should do as a sub regional organization and rationalized it into four thematic areas of focus and four corresponding strategic results/intermediate outcomes. While the thematic areas of focus identified by the ASARECA stakeholders and partners have some similarities with what ASARECA has historically sought to do, the approach, success drivers, strategic focus and the expected outcomes differ significantly from the past themes and programmes as evidenced by “What ASARECA has chosen to do under each thematic area of focus; How it will do it; and the Level at which it will do it in line with the principle of subsidiarity”. The themes are outlined below:
Transformative Capacity Strengthening and Integration
This thematic area focuses on strengthening and integration of different types of AR4D capacities and competencies at systemic, organizational and individual levels to support and contribute significantly to the attainment of inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation in the ECA member States. The strategic result areas required to deliver this thematic area include:
- Strengthening and integrating capacities and competencies for inclusive stakeholder engagement, strategic visioning and policy formulation.
- Strengthening and integrating capacities and competencies for generation, access and utilization of agricultural knowledge and information.
- Strengthening and integrating capacities and competencies for effective institutional development, management and performance monitoring and evaluation.
Agricultural Transformation Technologies and Innovations
This thematic area focuses on supporting and coordinating the development and adaptation of technologies and innovations to address priority regional agricultural transformation challenges; development of approaches, methods, tools and pathways for enhancing uptake and widespread utilization of technologies, innovations and management practices; enhancing scaling up of priority integrated regional agricultural value chains; and supporting development of private sector-driven agribusinesses and entrepreneurships. The strategic result areas required to deliver this thematic area include:
- Support and coordinate development and adaptation of gender responsive and climate-smart technologies, innovations and management practices.
- Support and coordinate scaling up of gender responsive and climate-smart technologies, innovations and management practices.
- Support and coordinate development and scaling up of gender responsive and youth focused regional value chains and agribusinesses.
Enabling Policy Environment, Functional Markets and Transformative Institutions
ASARECA has made significant contribution in policy analysis and advocacy in the past and, therefore, this thematic area will build on these past successes and lessons
learned. The focus for this thematic area is, therefore, to support and advocate for creation of enabling environment, establishment of functional and structured regional
markets and strengthening of regional institutions. The strategic result areas required to deliver this thematic area include:
- Support and advocate for establishment of transformative enabling policy and regulatory environment.
- Support and advocate for establishment of functional and structured regional input and output markets.
- Support and advocate for establishment of transformative regional institutions and institutional arrangements.
Knowledge and Information Management
This thematic area of focus builds on the lessons and experiences from ASARECA’s past knowledge and information initiatives to advocate for and explore ways through which data, information, knowledge and tools relevant for AR4D can increasingly be placed in the public domain. This thematic area shall, therefore, focus on improving management and access to reliable and up-to-date data, information and knowledge to inform agricultural transformation decision making processes and action in the ECA sub region. The strategic result areas required to deliver this thematic area include:
- Establish and manage regional technology and information clearing house.
- Establish and manage regional data bases, system models and decision support tools.
- Establish and manage functional platforms for communicating and exchanging knowledge and information