Nine projects spearheading nature-positive agricultural innovations

Together with Munich Re Foundation and Shockwave Foundation, we are pleased to announce the nine winning projects as part of the first round of the Resilient Agriculture Innovations for Nature (RAIN) Challenge.

RAIN aims to convert seed-level innovative agricultural ideas that are meeting resilience needs in East Africa and scale them to sustainable business ideas of interest to private investors and funders. 

Through a competitive call for proposals, the RAIN project team identified 18 innovative agricultural initiatives and provided them with customised support to maximise each initiative’s potential for impact. Each RAIN candidate received one-on-one mentorship on their project idea, business plan, scalability, and resilience. The candidates also attended a three-day leadership academy in Nairobi to fine tune their leadership skills, learn from each other, and network with fellow shortlisted candidates and mentors. 

Following months of mentorship and training, the RAIN project team has selected nine winning projects as part of the first round of the challenge. Winners will continue to receive tailored mentoring and communications support as well as a cash prize. They will also be invited to an investor forum and pitching session to connect with potential funders, donors and investors. 

The winning projects span for-profit enterprises to non-profit initiatives that bolster resilience and support nature-positive agriculture to flourish. 

June Kimaiyo

The nine winning projects

Transforming agriculture for sustainable futures: Empowering communities through innovative and nature-positive practices in Kikube and Hoima Districts
Country: Uganda
Lead organisation: Centre for Ecological Governance and Gender Initiatives (CEGGI)

In Uganda’s Kikube and Hoima Districts, a complex challenge threatens both ecological equilibrium and food security, impacting approximately 1 million individuals, including women, children, and the elderly. These communities endure chronic hunger and poverty, compounded by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, a well-intentioned yet ineffective government farmer input scheme, and the exploration of oil and gas resources in the region, causing environmental degradation and a significant reduction in agricultural productivity. In addition, the agricultural sector grapples with unpredictable weather patterns, a reliance on chemical-intensive farming, and soil degradation, resulting in substandard and unhealthy food production.

Through their RAIN project, CEGGI aims to address these challenges by working closely with the communities to share knowledge and strengthen their capacities by promoting and implementing organic farming, agroforestry, and precision farming practices in the districts. They plan to introduce solar-powered and eco-friendly technologies, as well as collaborate with local governments, other NGOs, and international agencies to leverage expertise, resources, and networks. 

Resilience through regeneration
Country: Kenya
Lead organisation: Itanya Africa Group

Through their project, Itanya Africa Group  prioritises regenerative farming practices that work in harmony with nature by promoting biodiversity, improving soil health, and enhancing ecosystem resilience. Through capacity building, the project team will  educate farmers on sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices as well as financial tools, empowering them with knowledge to transform their farming methods. They will establish demo farms to provide practical, hands-on learning experiences for farmers. These farms serve as living laboratories where farmers can see regenerative practices in action. 

Itanya Africa Group is also working to establish partnerships with ventures for off-taking produce and provide access to cold storage facilities through digitised systems, ensuring that farmers have reliable market access, which will  reduce post-harvest losses and help with predictability and financial planning. They will also address water scarcity issues by constructing household-based water pans. The pans provide essential water for farming but also increase climate resilience by enabling farmers to manage water resources effectively. 

Carbon farming for agricultural and environmental sustainability and profitability (CAFESUP)
Country: Kenya and Tanzania
Lead organisation: Food Security for Peace and Nutrition Africa (FSPN Africa)

Soil carbon sequestration offers untapped potential for removing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. It can help achieve net zero by eliminating  agriculture-related emissions in Kenya and Tanzania. The CAFAESUP project is a carbon financing initiative for landowners and farmers. The project uses support services to scale monitoring and the quantification of emissions and sequestration by using proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. This  intervention can enhance farmers’ livelihoods through a sustainable income with the sale of carbon credits, thereby bolstering their resilience and financial well-being. The project team will draw on their extensive on-the-ground experience, where they  have successfully collaborated with over 200,000 farmers in Kenya and Tanzania on other projects. 

Preparation of nano-fertilisers based on waste from agriculture and industries
Country: Ethiopia
Lead organisation: Bio and Emerging Technology Institute, Ethiopia

After wastewater treatment, more than 30,000 tons of sludge is generated every day and discharged into the environment without proper waste management. This causes serious environmental problems and it has become one of the greatest challenges of industrial parks. There are several options for sludge management and treatments.  One is the conversion of the sludge to nano-fertilisers, through zeolite formation and a composite formed with nitrogen and phosphorus from agro-waste. Zeolites are non-toxic, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly materials that can be easily synthesised. The project team will prepare a nano-fertiliser from the industrial waste sludge and  manufacture an innovative zeolite-encapsulated nano-fertiliser blend from nitrogen and phosphorus-rich solid agro-waste. Nano-fertilisers release nutrients gradually and continuously for more than 30 days, which can help increase nutrient use efficiency without negative side effects. The team will work with communities on how to use the fertiliser to improve their soil fertility, increase crop productivity, reduce environmental degradation, and decrease the cost and consumption of fertilisers. The team is collaborating with the Wondogenet Agriculture Research Centre and Addis Ababa University, Centre for Environmental on this project

Farm to Feed: Tackling food waste in Kenya
Country: Kenya
Lead organisation: Farm to Feed

Farm to Feed uses a digital platform to sell farmers’ imperfect and surplus food to customers. This reduces food losses and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improves food affordability for consumers and boosts farmers’ income.  The  food rescue solution helps farming communities deal with shocks and stresses of climate change. They provide fruit and vegetable farmers access to markets for foods at risk of being written off as a loss. By giving value to food that did not have value before, Farm to Feed is directly increasing farmer incomes. Farm to Feed also enables farmers to shift to regenerative agriculture methods, because they have created more certainty for farmers, which allows them to take more risk in adopting more climate smart and organic farming practices. 

VERMIFARM: Vermicomposting for sustainable production of organic fertiliser using food waste and empowering refugees
Country: Rwanda
Lead organisation: Rwanda Environment and Cultural Organisation (RECO) 

VERMIFARM produces sustainable high-quality organic fertiliser by using earthworms to break down food waste, a technique called vermicomposting. VERMIFARM is currently working with 15 refugees to collect food waste and to train them on how to use the organic fertiliser. Through the RAIN challenge, VERMIFARM plans to upgrade the infrastructure for their fertiliser production centre, hire and train more refugees, and conduct outreach and engagement to increase the distribution of the fertiliser to farmers. VERMIFARM’s fertiliser is cost effective and 50% cheaper than chemical fertilisers. They are able to keep costs down because everything is locally sourced and produced. 

Rearing cottages for parasitoids 
Country: Tanzania
Lead organisation: XylemTech Tanzania

The fall armyworm destroys a host of food crops including staple crops like maize. Beneficial parasitoids are insects that attack pests by overtaking their life cycle. Through this project, XylemTech will establish production cottages to multiply and release parasitoids that attack fall armyworm in farmers’ fields. Parasitoids have the capability to significantly reduce infestation of fall armyworm. They will sell the parasitoids at an affordable price to organised farmer groups, individual farmers and the government. This will help reduce the use of chemical pesticides and improve crop yields. XylemTech will provide support for release and monitoring of the parasitoids into the environment, as well as training in release and preservation of parasitoids. The project will also provide employment for capable young people in the area. 

Ecorich solutions
Country: Kenya
Lead organisation: Ecorich 

Ecorich Solutions developed the WasteBot organic waste decomposer machine that uses artificial intelligence and takes 24 hours to convert harmful waste into affordable organic fertiliser that is 70% cheaper than normal fertilisers. Through AI-enabled recycling and robotics, Ecorich’s recycling technology releases required microorganisms into the waste which converts the waste into organic fertiliser with 95% accuracy. lt displays the fertiliser content and nutrients composition. The team has set up two organic waste collections centres in Nairobi’s informal urban settlements where community members can discard their organic waste, which will then be converted into organic fertiliser and sold to smallholder farmers. They will be able to recycle 200kgs of organic waste per centre per day,  employ 180 women and 120 youth every month to collect and deliver organic waste to the collection centres. Currently, they have been able to reach 3,150 small scale farmers, and are aiming to reach 10,000 farmers in the next year through support and assistance from RAIN. 

Drain to Gain (D2G): Road runoff harvesting for nature-based farming project in Makueni County, Kenya
Country: Kenya
Lead organisation: MetaMeta

In Kenya, despite significant agricultural potential, challenges persist in ensuring food and nutrition security. Smallholder farmers who contribute to 75% of crop and livestock production are challenged with low rainfall, land degradation, and limited technology access. The arid and semi arid regions, covering 80% of Kenya’s landmass, are particularly vulnerable, hosting rural households living below the poverty line and dependency on local resources. To tackle these challenges, MetaMeta and Makueni County Government are working together on the Drain to Gain (D2G): Road runoff harvesting for nature-based farming projects. The Project aims at integrating sustainable land management strategies (road run-off harvesting, agroforestry, climate-smart farming, micro-catchment, bio-gulley control) to improve agricultural production and boost resilience in the region. 

The project team will work closely with Special Interest Groups including community-based organisations (CBOs), and common interest groups (CIGs) which will be involved throughout the project areas through capacity building, land-and-resource management planning, sustainable agricultural production, value chain and reforestation.

Eugene Kaiga