University-based Community Action Research for increasing viability of cereal-legume value chains towards improved nutrition and livelihoods in sub-Sahara Africa

Project consortium and fund:



Email Address

University of Eldoret, Kenya-Project Coordinator

Dr. Abigael Nekesa Otinga-Principle Investigator (PI)

amarishas@yahoo.com, abigaelno@gmail.com

Royal Tropical Institute / Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT), Netherlands-Project Partner

Dr. Helena Posthumus



Makerere University, Uganda-Project Partner

Dr. Bernard B. Obaa


Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal-Project Partner

Dr. Maria José Brito Monteiro da Silva


Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Sustainable food security
  • Nutritious value chain
  • Food systems governance and farmers organizations

UnicARSSA contributes to sustainable food security through the aspects of crop diversification and the inclusion of resilient crops such as sorghum, millet and grain legumes in to the farming systems. Such crops can cushion farmers against adverse effects of climate change while providing their daily food and income needs. UniCARSSA covers the whole value chain from production where high quality manures and micronutrients are applied to degraded soils for their rehabilitation to a good mix of both high value cereals and grain legumes for family and community nutrition. For those crops, their nutritional value is later improved through the development of the RUSFs. We tackle the geographic area of food systems governance and farmer organisations by including the CARPs which are umbrella organisations of various farmer groups and hence greater impact.

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

UniCARSSA links smallholders and rural entrepreneurs directly with universities in platforms for action to share currently available technologies, adapt them to local conditions and encourage new research for key constraints. It will build on 2 established community action research platforms (CARPS) at two universities (University of Eldoret, Kenya and Makerere University, Uganda) to address constraints in improving productivity and consumption of under-researched cereals and legumes in Kenya and Uganda to increase food and security nutrition. These crops are widely grown in the focus countries and are especially important for food security in smallholder agricultural communities. The CARPs will be instrumental in developing, adapting and scaling up innovations that improve efficient nutrient use, increase crop yields, improve post-harvest handling and develop nutritious food products that will increase demand and link the farmers in the value chains to increase the economic, environmental and social viability of these commodities. The project will help to reduce hunger and malnutrition, increase rural incomes and support commodities that contribute towards achieving the SDGs and responds to CAADP and national policy targets for stronger agricultural growth. We will use the University’s outreach centres to drive community action research in accordance with the communities needs along the cereal-legume value chains. Research into increasing production, reducing post-harvest losses and increasing nutrient use efficiency in millet, sorghum, groundnuts and soybeans will be carried out in collaboration with the farming communities. Using the two universities outreach centers as platforms, we will strengthen the relationship with the farming communities.

Project’s main objective(s):                             

Main Objective: To improve sustainable food production while reducing soil degradation, as well as improving FNS at household and community level.

Specific objectives:

  1. Increase resilience of farming systems and food production through the rehabilitation of degraded soils and the diversification of cereal-legume cropping systems
  2. Development of ready-to-use supplementary foods (RUSFs) from locally available highly nutritious cereal and legume crops
  3. Strengthening of local nutrition-sensitive value chains through research and capacity building of rural entrepreneurs
  4. Capacity building of local innovation systems through a multi-stakeholder approach (CARPs), and involvement of MSc and PhD students

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                         

UniCARRSA tackles the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition at household and community level. The underlying causes to this problem are limited utilization of resilient crops such as millet, sorghum and grain legumes, poor quality of crops due to low nutrients in the soil, low response of soils to addition of inputs among others. Many technologies have been developed but remain underutilised due to the poor operational framework for engagement between universities (research and technological innovation), the communities and other stakeholders. Thus UniCARSSA aims at improving food and nutrition security by increasing land productivity through sustainable agricultural intensification and diversification and strengthening innovation systems for nutrition-sensitive value chains. Our entry point will be to evaluate organic and inorganic fertilizer materials including micronutrients for rehabilitation of poor responsive soils, develop and evaluate crop diversification strategies, develop innovative crop utilization technologies, strengthen local nutrition-sensitive value chains through research and capacity building of rural entrepreneurs and establish platforms for engagement of universities with communities and value chain actors. This will be achieved on the assumptions that soils tested respond to fertilizer inputs applied and that students involved in the research work remain committed to engagement in the project. Other assumptions are that the value chain actors remain cooperative during the implementation of the project and embrace new technologies and that partnerships are sustained throughout the project to help communicate research results widely to inform policy.

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

Through its interventions, UniCARSSA expects the uptake of soil-enhancing technologies (e.g. rhizobium inoculants, fertilisation regimes) and diversified and resilient cereal-legume cropping systems by the farming community. Through diversification and the development and use of ready to use supplementary foods (RUSFs), we envisage more nutritious diets for children and households. Further, as capacity building is targeted for the CARPS, we expect that they will be more effective in joint innovation and transdisciplinary research with communities, SMEs, research institutions as well as the universities. The linkage of rural entrepreneurs to local markets will be one of key areas of focus with concomitant strengthened capacity of local value chains for nutritious food products. UniCARSSA will go a long way in increasing land productivity through sustainable agricultural intensification and diversification, improving nutrition security and strengthening innovation systems for nutrition-sensitive value chains.