Navigating challenges, sowing opportunities, and advocating for equity: A bountiful future for agriculture

Reflections from the GRP session at the Africa Climate Week, Cultivating an Ecosystem for Scaling Innovation in Africa and Latin America: Concrete Examples from the Ground.

Written by: June Kimaiyo
GRP Areas of work: Innovation Theme: Agriculture, nutrition and food security

In the heart of the agricultural sector, a thriving garden of innovation and transformation beckons, offering promises of growth and resilience. Yet, amidst this burgeoning potential, the sector finds itself increasingly vulnerable to the relentless forces of climate change. The unpredictability of climate conditions casts a shadow of doubt over agricultural investments, often rendering them as high-risk endeavors. However, within this dynamic landscape, a ray of hope emerges. During Africa Climate Week (ACW), a Global Resilience Partnership led session unveiled a trove of inspiration, drawing from examples from the Resilient Agricultural Innovations for Nature (RAIN) challenge. Entrepreneurs and project leaders, drawing wisdom from their grounded experiences, shed light on the obstacles that impede innovation and transformation at the grassroots level and the mechanisms that can help address climate risks. 

Accessibility in agriculture was a recurring topic, whether it’s access to resources, markets, information, or partnerships. One of the notable challenges discussed was the issue of equitable access to finance, particularly for women entrepreneurs engaged in agriculture. It’s disheartening to note that less than 36% of women globally have access to financial resources, hindering their ability to invest in their agricultural enterprises and labor. To catalyze a genuine revolution in agriculture, especially in countries like Kenya, it is imperative to address this issue at the policy level. Efforts should not be confined to a select group of farmers; instead, all farmers, irrespective of gender, should have an equal opportunity for financial support. This gender-based disparity is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues facing agriculture today. Fortunately, progress has been made in rectifying this imbalance by Meta Meta and Farm to Feed, two RAIN projects. Within their work, they have observed that women exhibit commendable financial management skills, and this shift towards empowering women financially has resulted in more equal access to resources. This is a significant stride towards fostering innovation, generational change, and broader resource distribution. 

Another significant challenge lies in the distribution of funds within the agricultural sector. Frequently, a significant portion of funding is allocated to agricultural infrastructure, including natural and built assets, structures, facilities, equipment and networks , while a smaller portion is designated for agricultural production and innovation. This allocation pattern raises questions about the hindrances to implementing innovative practices and their transformative potential.  Another  significant challenge is disseminating essential information to agricultural stakeholders, especially in remote or culturally diverse regions. Different communities have unique communication methods, such as theater or music and songs. Adapting information dissemination to cultural realities is vital. In response, Meta Meta is  collaborating with such communities to integrate best practices into their theatrical productions to develop a radio program in the local language to share agricultural knowledge. This highlights the importance of adapting information dissemination to cultural realities.

“Agriculture faces both challenges and opportunities, and addressing issues like access to credit, funding for women, and the impact of climate change requires innovative and collaborative approaches. Understanding cultural contexts and adapting information dissemination methods are vital steps towards achieving sustainable agriculture”

-Smita Sanghrajka, KPMG 

Amid these challenges, innovation emerges as a pivotal driver in addressing climate change within agriculture. Ensuring global food security is paramount, and identifying promising avenues for improvement and collaboration is critical. Early-stage funding plays a crucial role in risk mitigation and piloting new models, while partnerships and knowledge sharing are key to driving change.  While the enthusiasm of farmers for innovation and learning drives them to eagerly embrace new approaches and become more resilient, investors, in turn, should not only provide financial support but also contribute to the development of technical capabilities and endorse innovative ideas. Access to early-stage funding is essential to mitigate risks and test new models. Failure should not deter agricultural entrepreneurs and the investors ; it is part of the innovation process investors  should recognize that failure, too, is a valuable part of the learning process.

Within the intricate nexus of climate change and agriculture, opportunities abound. Agriculture is both a source of challenges and prospects. It is a vital sector in many countries, involving women, children, and small-scale farming. To address these challenges, it is key to promote collaboration within the agricultural sector, often involving local governments. Streamlining access to opportunities and simplifying bureaucratic processes ensures that farmers can tap into available resources effectively. It is crucial to give a voice to the farmers themselves, allowing them to contribute their perspectives rather than merely speaking on their behalf. Engaging with local communities, understanding their unique cultural practices, and integrating these into agricultural innovations are vital steps towards success. Communities must be part of the conversation and not just recipients of information. It’s crucial to listen to their challenges and incorporate their perspectives into projects. Sharing best practices and knowledge is another essential aspect. Partnerships, especially with the youth and women, are key to driving change.

“It’s essential to advocate for Africa’s fair share of climate finance and investments, considering the continent’s vulnerability to climate impacts. Africa’s agricultural sector is vital, and its potential for innovation and adaptation should not be underestimated”

-Smita Sanghrajka, KPMG 

In our pursuit of agricultural transformation, where challenges and opportunities intermingle, we find ourselves standing at a crossroads of great significance. This sector, brimming with innovation, holds the promise of resilience and prosperity, even in the face of an ever-changing climate. It is vital to remember that setbacks and failures are integral to the journey of innovation, driving us to push boundaries and redefine what is possible. At GRP we acknowledge that investing in agriculture is an investment in our collective future. It is the bridge to sustainable food security and prosperity. Learn more about the RAIN challenge see here for nonprofits and for profits initiatives on our website, and subscribe to our newsletter for more information about upcoming RAIN Challenges, news and other opportunities .