Regional Program Summary

On opposite sides of the Indian Ocean, the agricultural environments of Africa and Australia have much in common—the wet tropics of Rwanda and northern Queensland, the semi-arid tropics of eastern Africa and central Queensland, the irrigated schemes of southern Africa and the Murray–Darling Basin, and the arid rangelands of Ethiopia and the Northern Territory. Accordingly, Australian agricultural science has expertise that is directly relevant in the African context.

Africa and Australia share similar environmental constraints, such as poor soils and climatic variability. Australia has also met challenges to food security, including poor livestock nutrition, weak adoption of new technologies and low levels of farmer valuechain participation. As a result, Australian expertise and research are highly relevant to Africa, and for three decades a small number of ACIAR projects have delivered research outputs, impacts and capacity to the region.

Australia’s strategic approach to aid in Eastern and Southern Africa is to focus is on areas where Australia has particular strengths, and where strong frameworks exist for achieving effective results. One core strategy to tackle poverty and food insecurity is to increase agricultural productivity through farming systems intensification, diversification and improved market access.

The Eastern and Southern Africa research program builds on Australia’s expertise in dryland farming systems management. In southern Africa the research focus lies on livestock and cropping systems for disadvantaged farmers in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe; maize–legume intensification in Malawi and Mozambique; and water security in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In Eastern Africa the research emphasis is on intensification and increased resilience in maize–legume–livestock-based mixed farming systems, to achieve improved dietary energy and nutritional quality, and increase household income. Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda and other countries are benefiting from this research through organised spillovers of the results of sustainable intensification research.

Biosecurity is also a regional issue. Eight ACIAR research programs cover a diverse range of research and development (R&D) activities in various parts of Africa. A higher proportion of ACIAR projects in Eastern and Southern Africa are regional (they operate in more than one country) than in South and West Asia, or East Asia. ACIAR is also examining trilateral partnerships embracing the comparative advantages of Australia and South Asia in assisting Africa; for example, Australian expertise in broadacre conservation agriculture, and South Asian expertise on small-scale farm mechanisation.

Current ACIAR projects are strongly aligned with the priorities of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the 2014 Malabo Declaration and subregional organisations—the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). ACIAR has regular informal consultations with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on current and prospective African projects and programs to ensure the best possible synergies. ACIAR will also consult and consider regional agricultural research nodes such as ASARECA and CCARDESA in eastern and southern Africa as long as there are areas of comparative advantage and mutual objectives to partner and work together.

View the individual country pages for more details.

More information is available in the latest ACIAR Annual Operational Plan