Sustainable Transition to Entrepreneurial Production in Agriculture trough Upgrading

Project consortium and fund

Coordinating partner:



Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Germany



PI: Dr. Stefan Sieber


Coordinator: Dr. Götz Uckert


Funding 300,000 € : Germany – BLE (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung)




Wageningen University (WUR), The Netherlands

Plant Science Departement, chair group Plant Production Systems


Contact: Dr. Katrien Descheemaeker


Funding 235,000 € : The Netherlands – NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research)


Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya

Faculty of Agriculture


Contact: Prof. Turoop Losenge


Requested 42,000 € from the funding body: Kenya – MOEST (Ministry of Education Science and Technology)


National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND), Kenya


Contact: Dr. George Mwaniki


Requested 38,000 € from the funding body: Kenya – MOEST (Ministry of Education Science and Technology)


Environmental Alert (EA), Uganda


Contact Dr. Joshua Zake


Requested 102,500 € , funding body shifted to a new ministry: Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI)

formerly: Uganda – UNCST (Uganda National Council for Science and Technology)


National Agricultural Research Organisation / National Agricultural Labaratories (NARO), Uganda

Programme “Food Biosciences and Agribusiness Research programme”


Contact Dr. Kephas Nowakunda


Requested 82,500 € , funding body shifted to a new ministry: Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI)

formerly: Uganda – UNCST (Uganda National Council for Science and Technology)


Solidaridad Network, Uganda


Contact Mr. MSc Julius Ssemyalo


Funding 15,000 € : The Netherlands – NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research)

Advisory board:



Solidaridad-NL, The Netherlands


Dr. Jeroen Krutzen


International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Uganda

Natural Resource Management


Dr. Godfrey Taulya


Kenya Bureau of Standards





STEP-UP total funding : 830,000 €



Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Agroforestry systems
  • Sustainable food security
  • Plant sciences
  • Nutritious value chain
  • Food and nutrition assessment
  • Food technology and safety
  • Post-harvest innovations
  • Food value-chain
  • Rural development and agricultural economy
  • Food systems governance and farmers organizations

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

Rural food value chains (FVC) in sub-Saharan Africa experience various challenges to implement food securing innovations. Through sustainable intensification (SI) and market linkage (ML) strategies STEP-UP will enable small farm enterprises (SFEs) to step up towards food and nutrition security, sustainable development and income generation at farm and community levels. In mango and banana FVC in Kenya and Uganda new technologies in breeding, processing, packaging and conversion will be implemented and assessed through a participatory multi-stakeholder approach.

The core STEP-UP activities are:

  1. Screening the banana and mango FVC with consortium experts and stakeholders
  2. Participatory development of food system transition pathways and entry points for SFEs with high potential to create added value via knowledge, labor and monetary (re-) investments
  3. Selection and adaptation of effective SI and ML strategies, based on a multi-criteria, participatory assessment of their impact using indicators developed by experts and multi-level stakeholders
  4. Delivering evidence-based advice and decision support tools for out-scaling of SI and ML strategies to other regions and food systems
  5. Knowledge exchange and capacity building of FVC stakeholders.

In Uganda we focus on SI strategies to increase crop production and evaluate how markets can best respond. In Kenya we focus on ML strategies to pull (re-) investment in SI to a higher level. Across the study sites and FVCs, a dynamic monitoring system will enable co-learning and adaptive project management. Understanding the dynamics between SI and ML in different food systems will result in standards and procedures to reduce farmers´ and entrepreneurs´ risks. SFEs and FVC intermediaries in the case study areas will benefit from improved knowledge, skills and capacities to sustainably upgrade their activities. Decision makers will have a clear view about desired transitions and how to enable them.

Project’s main objective(s):                             

The overall aim is to contribute to food security and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa through equitable commercial relationships between SFEs and markets within the frame of sustainable agricultural production. We focus on the heterogeneous groups of smallholder farmers with an entrepreneurial ambition. STEP-UP will support smallholder producers to access relevant technologies, innovations and management practices for the transition to commercialized production. Specific objectives are:

  • Achieve sustainable intensification of SFEs and the transition of diverse farms to commercial enterprises that contribute to food and nutrition security while minimizing trade-offs in other sustainability dimensions;
  • Provide key actor groups, local authorities and decision-makers with instruments and information for discussion and decision support based on participatory ex-ante and ex-post impact assessments;
  • Inform policy implementation towards a supportive public-policy environment based on locally-relevant sustainability principles, criteria and indicators.

STEP-UP will work with multi-stakeholder groups (including women groups) to scale up activities for farmers to meet the market demand and scale out to farmers outside their localities. The linkage to diverse and emerging “Small Farm Enterprises” (SFEs) will enable STEP-UP to achieve a major milestone in converting research outputs into commercial products and supporting SFEs to access markets.

Across countries and FVCs the project will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the push (starting from SI) and the pull (starting from ML) approach and derive which elements to combine where and how. With the aim to out-scale approaches, tools and SI/ML strategies, the project seeks to answer and decide:

  1. What are effective SI and ML strategies for stepping up in banana and mango FVCs that maximize multiple stakeholders aspirations and minimize tradeoffs in the sustainable development domains?
  2. Which standards and procedures will support pro-poor, gender-inclusive and youth’s livelihoods and reduce farmers’ and other entrepreneurs’ risks?
  3. Which mechanisms of knowledge exchange and stakeholder participation guarantee a balance between diverging interests?
  4. What information is needed for effective and efficient scaling up and scaling out of SI and ML strategies?

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                         

STEP-UP framed its theory of change upon the agro-food system concept. It considers the agro-food system by its activities (producing, processing, distributing), its output related to food and nutrition security (availability, access, utilization, stability) and its impact on social and environmental welfare. A supportive public-policy environment was added as an additional impact to this concept. STEP-UP intends to convert its scientific outputs into locally-relevant outcomes and impacts by engaging different types of key stakeholders that have a direct and/or indirect relation with or influence on the local food systems.

The main objectives of STEP-UP correspond with the objectives of the call by addressing all three focal areas. To create significant impact within the three year horizon of the project, STEP-UP seeks for incorporation of research achievements of all partners from the recent past. The STEP-UP approach will include all dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) as well as short, mid and long term impacts using participative scenarios. By the participatory development of tools for decision support STEP-UP will ensure the applicability of the science-based benchmarks and procedures.

Addressing high postharvest losses in SSA this project will contribute to limiting food waste. STEP-UP will link traders and middlemen to producers groups and organize joint learning sessions between farmers, traders, field and postharvest management experts (for both local and export markets). These sessions will enable the traders to share the market requirements with the farmers, the experts to demonstrate good practice of production and handling of the fruit crops for higher market prices and the farmers to indicate their farm level constraints and options. Together this will lead to development options adapted to the local conditions and opportunities. STEP-UP is focusing on SFEs with entrepreneurial ambition and sense of ownership to ensure a detectable development, e.g. becoming a member of introduced multi-stakeholder platforms being one of the entry-points for stepping up.

A major pathway towards impact is the co-learning activities in all steps of the project. Starting from scoping studies, stakeholders and scientists jointly agree on methods, assessment criteria and finally on effective climate smart and food and nutrition securing SI and ML strategies. Achievements, challenges and adjustments of SI and ML strategies are jointly discussed and decided across the diverse range of SFEs and across both genders and youth. This participative approach aligns stakeholders to understand methods, tools, training procedures and materials used during implementation. The iterative and continued adaptation of SI and ML strategies to needs of different social groups and the integration of their knowledge and skills across multi-stakeholder groups enable identification of well-tuned development options. This will impact SFEs’ livelihoods on short term and well beyond the project lifetime.

For capacity building STEP-UP aims at young scientists as well as stakeholders at the community, regional and national level across the banana and mango FVC to serve as multipliers in the future. Trainings will be tailored to meet the stakeholders’ needs identified during participatory baseline and feasibility studies in the beginning of the project. The capacity (knowledge, skills, and tools) built will be sustained by training materials and modules addressing upgrading of the banana and mango FVC.

STEP-UP targets participation of SFEs, other local actors in the FVC (intermediaries, small food processors, suppliers of seed, fertilizers and equipment, retailers), and key stakeholders further along the banana and mango FVC (experts, authorities) and policy makers. Participative co-learning being the STEP-UP principle, different communication and training formats will be designed for each stakeholder group.

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

Since the new SI and ML strategies, the associated learning methods and tools, and the new knowledge will be jointly generated with stakeholders engaged in securing the mango and banana FVCs, we expect a high level of implementation and continuation beyond the project. The tools for identifying and assessing stakeholder involvement (Net-Map) and for multi-criteria assessment (Scala; FoPIA) will be used by decision makers and within stakeholder networks. A close involvement of the national Food Security programs is aimed for to secure compliance with national networks, regulations and standards. Enhanced agricultural transformation pathways will be used as a basis for policy making at local and higher levels.

The SI and ML strategies established together with all stakeholders will be common good. In line with the Research Impact Pathway the project results expect to sustainably stabilize and upgrade banana value chains in Uganda (harvesting technics, improved storage, propagation, peeling, marketing) and the mango FVCs in Kenya (harvesting techniques, improved storage, peeling, drying, marketing) and through multi-stakeholder platforms, involved NGOs, and better market link-ages reach more than 10.000 households. The capacities built through the project will continue shaping R&D in food systems of Uganda and Kenya. Possible foreground knowledge linked to the SI and ML strategies will be identified and accessed to enable its diffusion and encourage exploitation and transfer of research results to foster their rapid uptake. Intellectual property as related to scientific publications will be managed according to good scientific practice. Results will continue to be disseminated through multiple press releases launched for instance by Paepard and the German, Kenyan, Ugandan, Dutch or international TV.

The Kenya partners will increase experience in the commercial farmer based networks through the use of information technology especially mobiles apps for marketing of bananas: e.g. the farmers voice radio programs and “mkulima” young networks – a tweeter based knowledge sharing platform. The Uganda counterpart will benefit from the Kenyans lessons on the use of clean planting materials developed through tissue culture technology.