STEP-UP : Sustainable Transition to Entrepreneurial Production in Agriculture trough Upgrading

Project identifier 54-STEP-UP
Project Status ongoing
Start date 2018-08-01
End date 2021-08-31
Roadmap Theme
  • Agriculture and food systems for nutrition: Improved nutritional value
  • Agriculture and food systems for nutrition: Improved food value chains
  • Type of Project Development and innovation oriented (research) project
    Type of Project Institutional capacity building project
    Programme LEAP-Agri
    Keyword Sustainable intensification; Market linkage; smallholders; Food value chains; banana; mango
    Location Uganda; Kenya
    Budget 830 000
    Main Funder ERA-Net Cofund (LEAP-Agri)
    Co Funder Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) (H2020)
    Coordinator Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)
  • Wageningen University
  • Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
  • National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND)
  • Environmental Alert (EA)
  • National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)
  • Solidaridad
  • Project Web Site
    Documents LEAP-Agri Projects information booklet



    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 outscaling 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.

    Main Objectives:

    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:

    1. 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;
    2. 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;
    3. 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?