Accelerating Development in Rural Areas through Innovation

To ensure that one day everyone on Earth can live a secure existence without hunger, we need new ideas and approaches. When millions of people suffer from hunger and migrate because they fear for their future, when soils, forests, and biodiversity fade away and climate change and globalisation lead to rapid global transformation, we need a change in strategy. SEWOH wants to break with old ways of thinking – since its launch, innovation has been the guiding principle. Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. They all count – from introducing high-quality seeds and plants to conservative use of fertilisers and water, and optimising processes during harvest, drying, storage and transport. However, innovation can also be applied to efficient collaboration between farms, agricultural businesses and food producers, offering farmers and their families greater participation in the value creation process. To innovate, knowledge needs to be exchanged. As part of SEWOH, the BMZ established a network of “Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector“ in 16 partner countries working with German development cooperation. These development and training networks bring together local, German and international partners who all cooperate closely. Together they help introduce and distribute innovations in value chains to 2.6 million people – with the aim of improving regional food supplies, increasing smallholder farmers’ incomes and creating jobs particularly in the food processing sector.

Project I Benin

Business training promotes entrepreneurial spirit

Rural Africa offers countless economic opportunities and great potential for entrepreneurial creativity. Tapping this potential can create sweeping successes in development policy. The Green Innovation Centres in Benin and six other African countries specifically support small and mediumsized businesses with their Small and Medium Enterprises Business Training and Coaching Loop (SME Loop). The tool provides a tailor-made programme of courses and individual coaching in management and business skills, accounting, marketing and customer relations management. It encourages both launches of new businesses and development of existing enterprises. The SME Loop helps increase performance and competitiveness in participating companies and contributes to distributing innovative technologies in rural areas. The results are quickly tangible and benefit local populations. In Benin alone, over 2,900 new full-time jobs have been created to date as a result of the SME Loop. The approach‘s success, economic and in terms of development policies, is not only apparent in the growing number of job holders. The 2,000 participants who have so far completed the SME Loop have on average more than doubled their income. By 2025, the Green Innovation Centres will have created more than 23,000 new full-time jobs and increased employment in agricultural ventures.


At least 3.9 million people benefit in the long term from new knowledge of agriculture and nutrition.

The measures achieve these numbers through training and qualification, consulting or structured knowledge sharing in:


Nutrition / Agriculture / Sustainable use of resources / Business management / Basic skills / Digital competence


"The standards we set for ourselves made it possible for us to change the minds of many consumers who had always thought quality products come from elsewhere.”


Euphrasie Dassoundo Assogba

The entrepreneur from Benin, who was awarded the title of „Game Changer“ successfully participated in the SME loop and created over 150 jobs in tomato processing within five years.


Faster from lab to field

For smallholder farmers to cope with challenges like climate change, lack of resources and crop failure, they need new and innovative technologies as well as improved plant varieties and agricultural practices. International public agricultural research develops innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture in developing countries. SEWOH cooperates with the 15 agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and the World Vegetable Center. The Green Innovation Centres then bring these innovations developed in the international agricultural research institutes directly to farmers’ fields.


Collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo, CIMMYT), headquartered in Mexico, is one example. The partnership encompasses a range of topics important for support in value chains, including post-harvest technologies, mechanisation (allowing easier access especially for women), technology transfer of adapted mechanisation solutions between countries, education and training centres supporting and empowering relevant stakeholders. The Green Innovation Centres use the research that CIMMYT generates to increase agricultural production, create productive employment opportunities and prospects for young adults and women in particular, and to promote application of technologies adapted to the climate. An example of successful mechanisation is the introduction of a miniature rice peeling machine in Burkina Faso. The new machinery even created additional jobs, with around 1,400 producers managing to increase profits by 15 per cent. They did this by drafting a contract for a partnership with the rice mill operator. This model has since been applied to four other rice peeling machines.


In Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali, the Africa Rice Center built the RiceAdvice app to help farmers manage their business. The app is distributed through the Green Innovation Centres and the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI). In Nigeria alone, roughly 11,500 rice farmers were able to improve use of fertilisers. Combined with other measures, they managed to achieve significant yield increases of up to 38 per cent and more. Altogether, about 72,000 people currently benefit directly and indirectly from the app.


Digital start-ups strengthen supply chains

Through GIZ, SEWOH supports selected African agriculture and food sector start-ups in distributing their digital innovations to more users. The aim is to give users the tools they need to improve income. A key objective is to strengthen agricultural supply chains and market access. Digital business-to-business and business-to-customer e-commerce platforms like eMsika in Sambia and Livestock247 in Nigeria connect various stakeholders in the sector. eMsika is an online marketplace and gives smallholder farmers better access to materials and equipment, even in remote regions. Recently, it also started offering training. Livestock247 brings together participants in the growing Nigerian livestock economy and works on improving animal health in the country. During the COVID-19 crisis, both start-ups managed to scale their businesses successfully and generate over 3,500 new users. They both took part in a nine-month Investment Readiness Programme – where they received in-depth consulting on operative and strategic questions, including alignment of their business models, their technical and digital infrastructure and how best to approach investors to help develop the young businesses.


“ Our technology will help farmers and their families achieve better prices for their harvests. With a cooling system that runs on energy produced from agricultural waste products, we give them access to new, distant markets.”



Founder of New Leaf Dynamic Technologies and winner of the Innovation Challenge 2020 in the category “Renewable Energy”.


Proven benefits: supplementary research for SEWOH

The Program of Accompanying Research for Agricultural Innovation (PARI) brings together partners from Africa, India and Germany to look at how innovations can promote rural development in Africa and contribute to ending hunger and malnutrition. Four core partners chair the PARI consortium, the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, Hohenheim University in Germany, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Ghana and Akademiya2063 in Rwanda, who in turn cooperate with 18 African and two Indian partners. Since 2015, the PARI partners have published close to 200 studies on the main issues SEWOH addresses. The researchers in the consortium analyse technological and institutional innovations that have the potential to strengthen value chains in the farming and livestock sectors. They work closely with the Green Innovation Centres, in order to get research results to the field more quickly and to better align measures with current scientific findings.