SIMLESA - Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa program For comprehensive information about the SIMLESA program, please visit

Food security is a major concern in the east and southern Africa region. While the food crisis has receded somewhat at the international level, within the region urban food prices remain relatively high. Among the food crops, maize is the main staple and legumes an important dietary protein source for the rural poor. Legumes are widely used as an intercrop in maize systems, and are also significant source of income for women. The demand for maize and legumes are projected to increase substantially over the next ten years. Seasonal variability causes wide swings in food crop yields, including those of maize and legumes.

The intensification and stabilization of rainfed maize-legume cropping systems offer considerable promise for boosting productivity, improving food and nutrition security and helping reverse the decline in soil fertility. The Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) program is supported by ACIAR and managed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the NARS of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Additional partners include the International Center for Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (ARC RSA), the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Queensland, and Murdoch University in Western Australia.

The focal countries of this partnership program are Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Australia. Through participatory research and follow-on development with farmers, extension agencies, non-governmental organizations, Universities and agribusiness along the value chains, the program aims to improve maize and legume productivity by 30% and to reduce the expected downside yield risk by 30% on approximately 500,000 farms within ten years. Through sub-regional research organizations and existing networks, the program will foster spillovers of improved crop systems management practices, knowledge and germplasm to other countries in the east central and southern Africa regions.

The SIMLESA objectives are:

  1. To characterize maize-legume production and input and output value chain systems and impact pathways, and identify broad systemic constraints and options for field testing.
  2. To test and develop productive, resilient and sustainable smallholder maize-legume cropping systems and innovation systems for local scaling out.
  3. To increase the range of maize and legume varieties available for smallholders through accelerated breeding, regional testing and release, and availability of performance data.
  4. To support the development of regional and local innovations systems.
  5. Capacity building to increase the efficiency of agricultural research today and in the future.

More information

More information on the SIMLESA Program is available from the SIMLESA Program document which is available for download below.

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