RIAN Challenge - planting
© Kelvin Trautman|Kands Collective

How innovation is driving resilient agriculture

A review of the RAIN Challenge 2023

    alt txt



    Under the leadership of the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP), we launched the Resilient Agriculture Innovations for Nature (RAIN) Challenge for non-profit organisations at the beginning of 2023. RAIN supports innovative agricultural initiatives that aim to help agriculture to become more resilient and environmentally sustainable. The goal is to strengthen and drive the initiatives forward, while raising public awareness of nature-positivity and the need for locally-led agricultural systems transformation. Selected initiatives receive support from professionals to ensure they are sustainable and scalable for maximum impact. Almost a year since the start of the collaboration, we look back proudly on what has been achieved.

    Seeking inclusive and sustainable ideas

    The challenge was open from May to June 2023 to non-profit organisations in East African countries, including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. We were looking for innovative, seed-level agricultural ideas that are nature-positive and climate-smart. The focus was on involving local communities and marginalised groups. To raise the visibility of the challenge and provide information to potential applicants, the project team held a webinar in early June with 65 participants.
    Innovation is critical. We need new ways of doing things. We need to not only cope with and recover from consequences of climate change, but also transform lives and communities
    Jesper Hörnberg
    Head of Innovation and Scaling

    Identifying and selecting new innovations

    In total, we received a high number of 69 applications and after a careful selection process, eight initiatives were shortlisted. Over the following months, a holistic and tailored mentorship was established for the shortlisted candidates and their value chain viability was assessed. In addition, together with their mentors, they revised the project proposals by conducting a context and problem analysis to identify gaps. Finally, revised action plans were defined, including a proper milestone strategy, realistic budget estimates and an implementation plan.  

    Prepared for the future – Leadership Academy

    Jesper Hörnberg (Head of Innovation at GRP) underlines: "Most importantly, we work with the people. So we run leadership training courses, acknowledging that the most important factor in creating this change and making these innovations actually successful and scalable is the people."

    Sixteen participants from the eight shortlisted candidates gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2023 for a Leadership Academy to share their innovations and participate in leadership training. The training was led by Jesper Hörnberg (Head of Innovation at GRP), Aoife Hegarty (Independent Consultant/Trainer), Anjali Saini (RAIN Mentor) and Moses Kimani (RAIN Mentor).

    Thoughts on the Leadership Academy

    Caroline Muthoni, Itanya Group, ESG and Research Lead, Kenya, summarised her experience: "What I have learned from the Leadership Academy is what a leader is. I have learned it is about empathy; I have learned it is about courage; it is about having a vision; it is about sacrifice, and it is about serving others." 

    Other participants pointed out that the Leadership Academy helped them to discover true leadership.  Rehema Hassan, General Manager, Xylem Tech, Tanzania, added that “a good leader has to be determined. A good leader is visionary. You must have a vision to be able to make a change.” Ultimately, the success of every project is measured by the impact it has. Or as Vincent Sinikubwabo, Founder and Managing Director, Rwanda Environmental and Cultural Organization (RECO), puts it: “You have leadership in you. So you come up with a solution to solve that problem. So it has a great impact, a positive impact, and it motivates you to get good solutions even for the development of the country from the ground up, which is the local community, the sector and then the development of the country.”

    The learning experience helped the participants to embark on a longer journey of personal growth and it provided ideas on how they can foster their organisations. 

    Participant Emmanuel Iranya
    © GRP
    For anything to move, there must be direction. That direction is given by a leader, who is basically at the steering wheel. So you need that leadership to organise, to build the team, to drive the team in the direction of the project.
    Emmanuel Iranya
    Moyo District Farmers' Association
    RAIN Challenge participants Lydia Murithi
    © GRP
    The Leadership Academy has enabled me to learn how to use the information on leadership in terms of my organisation’s growth. I have also been able to learn how to understand people’s feelings, and how to respect their decisions, because we have diverse decisions, we have diverse ways of handling other people, and we need to know how to appreciate them and work in harmony.
    Lydia Murithi
    Embu University

    Our final winning projects

    After the Leadership Academy, the mentors, project managers and jury members reviewed all shortlisted initiatives once again. The most promising will now receive financial support for implementation as part of the RAIN Challenge. They will also continue to receive expert mentoring as they move onwards and will be connected to potential funders from across GRP’s network. We look forward to evaluating these projects more closely after their first year of action in 2024.

    We hope that we can contribute and support them in unlocking their potential to transform agriculture. The following four projects receive seed funding to implement the first steps of their action plan:

    Carbon Farming for Agricultural and Environmental Sustainability and Profitability
    Organisation: Food Security for Peace and Nutrition Africa (FSPN Africa)
    Country: Kenya/Tanzania

    Preparation of nanofertilizer based on agricultural and industrial waste
    Organisation: Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin)
    Country: Ethiopia

    Resilience through Regeneration
    Organisation: Itanya Africa Group
    Country: Kenya

    Transforming Agriculture for Sustainable Futures: Empowering communities through innovative and nature-positive practices in the Kikube and Hoima Districts
    Organisation: Centre for Ecological Governance and Gender Initiatives (CEGGI)
    Country: Uganda

    A more detailed description of each project can be found here: Link

    New ways of transforming agriculture – an outlook

    The climate in Africa is becoming more and more unpredictable. Especially in East African countries, natural hazards and climate change pose major challenges for the agricultural sector. RAIN supports the transformation of the African agricultural sector towards a nature-positive and resilient future. And, as the reactions from the Leadership Academy show, this is falling on fertile ground.

    The second phase of the RAIN Challenge started in December 2023. We look forward to more innovative and inclusive projects and will continue to support this great initiative together with GRP.

    4 March 2024