Scaling Climate Smart Agriculture in East Africa: Experiences and Lessons

Thomas Kirina*, Annemarie Groot, Helena Shilomboleni, Fulco Ludwig, Teferi Demissie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) responds in order to sustain agriculture under a changing environment, and is a major priority in the development sphere. However, to achieve impact at scale, CSA innovations must address agricultural systems’ context-specific and multi-dimensional nature and be purveyed through feasible scaling processes. Unfortunately, knowledge on the scaling of CSA innovations under smallholder farming systems and in the context of developing countries remains scant. Understanding scaling processes is essential to the design of a sustainable scaling strategy. This study aimed to draw lessons on scaling from 25 cases of scaling CSA, and related projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania implemented by public institutions, local and international research organisations, Non-Govermental Orginsations(NGOs), and community-based organisations. Generally, scaling follows a linear pathway comprising technology testing and scaling. Most cases promoted technologies and models geared towards climate change adaptation in cropbased value chains, and only a few cases incorporated mitigation measures. Efforts to engage the private sector involved building business models as a potential scaling pathway. The cases were very strong on capacity building and institutionalisation from local, national, and even regional levels. However, four critical areas of concern about the sustainability of scaling emerged from the study: (i) There is little understanding and capture of the dynamics of smallholder farming systems in scaling strategies; (ii) climate data, projections, and impact models are rarely applied to support the decision of scaling; (iii) considerations for the biophysical and spatial-temporal impacts and trade-offs analysis in scaling is minimal and just starting to emerge; and (iv) there are still challenges effecting systemic change to enable sustainable scaling. In response to these concerns, we propose investment in understanding and considering the dynamics of the smallholder farming system and how it affects adoption, and subsequently scaling. Programme design should incorporate climate change scenarios. Scaling programmes can maximise synergies and leverage resources by adopting a robust partnerships model. Furthermore, understanding the spatio-temporal impact of scaling CSA on ecological functioning deserves more attention. Lastly, scaling takes time, which needs to be factored into the design of programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number820
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • climate-smart agriculture
  • East Africa
  • partnerships
  • scaling


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