Developing the right project that ABLES farmers: true sustainable agricultural transformation in Africa by Rachel Zozo, Sabra Lewis, and Atayi Opaluwah

Hi, we are Rachel Zozo, Sabra Lewis and Atayi Opaluwah, working for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), as Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Program Manager and Communication Specialist, respectively. After three years of working in a multinational and complex program, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), called the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) focusing on transforming Africa’s agriculture sector, we are of the view that for true sustainable transformation to take place, agriculture projects need to accelerate the process of getting modern and proven agricultural technologies and innovations into the hands of farmers. It is this thinking that we believe Accelerated-Beneficiaries-Linking-Extension and Start Small (ABLES) is the true transformation on the continent using community development approach by starting small and progressively expand and grow bigger. This is where the trigger lies. The community-driven approach used in TAAT, provides knowledge to grassroot communities and empowers farmers with the right knowledge and information to boost farm productivity as a stimulus to transformation.

TAAT can not do it alone. It builds a delivery infrastruture as a platform to all partners and stakeholders helping to create opportunities and increase productivity offering profitable outputs to farmers. This is the key driver of transformation often ignored, focusing on the inputs and output markets that cannot grow unless production is enhanced. African agriculture has continued to face challenges as appropriate technologies have not been deployed at a fast pace, thus leaving behind an infrastructure that does not benefit vulnerable groups and continues to provide an uneven distribution of economic returns, affecting primarily women and youth, and depriving them a life of prosperity. While we are in no way suggesting that other sectors be ignored, our observations indicate that  priority should be on availing affordabe modern agriculture innovations to farmers.

Our experience with TAAT has given us insight into instigating agricultural transformation through partnerships that are fit for purpose– a key pillar that is critical for all agriculture projects from now on. After three years of implementation, we have observed that the model is not just working, it has become an engine that  is fit for purpose with continuous focus on getting knowledge out to farmers. Thinking needs to be one that ABLES rapid and large scale deployment of tehchnologies through strong partnership arrangements. 

Lessons learned

  • Accelerated large-scale dissemination of modern and proven technology bundling and their accompanying inputs assembled as toolkits
  • Beneficiaries are the most important stakeholders and must be at the forefront of all  extensive decision-making processes including partnership arrangements and technologies needed
  • Linking existing project to country sovereign programs supported by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) is key to helping countries mobilize long-term capital investment to support National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs)
  • Extensionists and their national systems stimulate partnerships that are fit for purpose to reach the most vulnerable groups, including women and youth, as change agents of transformation, incorporating uptake of technologies proven through cutting-edge research. Building their capacity is absolute necessity without which no transformation can take place. Private sector partnerships we believe, tend to be happy by merely increasing productivity.
  • Start small and deliver knowledge and share information of new varieties and farming practices through strong functional linkages with partners at the grassroot level to leverage on large scale deployment complimenting existing projects under implementation.

Rad Resources


This article acknowledges the support and efforts of the management and staff of the TAAT Programme, especially the IITA, the Executing Agency and the Implementing Agencies as well as development partners whose invaluable contributions informed this article. The TAAT Programme is funded through a grant from the African Development Bank with additional support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Each of these individuals and organisations are gratefully acknowledged.

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