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The project: “sustainable transition to entrepreneurial production in agriculture through upgrading” or (STEP-UP) was secured in 2018, and is implemented in partnership with the Leibniz-Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (Germany), Wageningen University (Netherlands), Environmental Alert (Uganda), National Agricultural Research Organisation (Uganda and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology ( JKUAT); funding of EUR 830,000 was secured for project. The project is ongoing.

STEP-UP combines research, development-and outreach-oriented activities in five Work Packages (WPs), and implements sustainable intensification (SI) and market linkage (ML) strategies to enable SFEs to step up towards food and nutrition security, sustainable development and income generation. Through a participatory multi-stakeholder approach new technologies in cultivation, processing and packaging will be implemented and assessed in mango and banana food value chains (FVC) in Kenya and Uganda. These case studies represent different stages in the transition process of “stepping up” through ML and SI. Data collection methods will include literature review, farm surveys, key informant interviews, focus group discussions with farmers and key stakeholders, and monitoring of selected indicators.

In Kenya STEP-UP will build on networking activities and strategy implementation by NET-FUND with 42 women mango farmer groups. NETFUND supported the implementation of three mango processing plants for conversion into different value-added products, e.g. concentrates, mango leather and mango powder. Mango powder is a highly nutritious food additive, requiring high quality FVC. Therefore farmers need training on best mango production practices. To access high quality markets (e.g. baby porridge) NETFUND started collaboration with the ISO certified Food Technology Laboratories of the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). Analytical tests aimed at establishing quality standards to receive the Standardization Mark of Quality from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KEBS). NETFUND is currently applying for a patent.

Market opportunities emerge through the powder’s longer storage capacity and use as an additive to fortify cereal flours. However, at present, the production capacity is not reached due to market limitations. STEP-UP will identify strategies for SFEs to invest in the improvement of the food system and increase the occupancy rate of the facilities. Understanding farmer heterogeneity and interactions with the non-mango farm components will help to tailor strategies towards higher uptake.