Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector (GIC)

Project description

Title: Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector (GIC)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia
Lead executing agency: Varies by country
Overall term: 2014 to 2022


Never before has so much food been produced worldwide as today. Yet more than 800 million people face starvation while another two billion suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Hunger is still primarily a problem that is related to poverty and the majority of those who do not have enough to eat are smallholder farmers. They have been unable to fully exploit rising global demand for agricultural goods that would help them to sustainably improve their living conditions. Due to a lack of coordination between the storing, processing and selling processes, a large proportion of the food they produce spoils on the way from the field to the plate. Heavy dependence on the global market places many people at risk of sudden and acute food shortages, especially those living in poor rural areas. This makes it especially important to increase the availability of foodstuffs on local markets.

The key to raising incomes and boosting production in agricultural systems characterised by smallholder farms lies in sustainably raising productivity, enhancing organisation, such as through associations of producers, and improving marketing and processing along the entire agricultural value chain. In short, locally adapted innovations are needed in order to foster sustainable development throughout the agricultural and food sector.


Innovations in the agriculture and food sector have increased the incomes of small farming enterprises, boosted employment and improved the regional food supply in the rural target regions.


The Green Innovation Centres programme is currently active in 14 countries. It coordinates its activities with local ministries and cooperates with programmes under the special initiative One World - No Hunger as well as with bilateral German development cooperation programmes.

Smallholder farms are the focus of the Green Innovation Centres programme, which aids them in sustainably increasing their agricultural production and income. A second objective is to generate new jobs in the area of food processing, ensuring that a greater portion of the value added from agricultural production remains in the local area, especially within rural regions.

Women in these partner countries generally have poorer access to education and to the means for engaging in production, particularly land and capital. To address this deficit, the Green Innovation Centres consider their needs in particular, for instance by providing them with special training courses and advisory services.

The programme promotes networking between local innovation partners in order to improve and accelerate the spread of innovations within the participating countries. These innovations may be technical in nature, such as mechanisation within agriculture or improved seeds, fertilisers and food cooling chains. In many cases, they focus on new channels for cooperation, such as setting up producer associations, specialised enterprises or interest groups.

The Green Innovation Centres also promote the development and dissemination of knowledge by providing advisory services, organising educational and training courses, and facilitating access to loans for supporting innovation.
Whenever possible, the programme cooperates with existing agricultural schools, knowledge hubs and research institutes such as the Africa Rice Center or the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. In addition, the Centre for Development Research within the special initiative conducts accompanying international research.

The private sector is also providing its support: In Tunisia, the innovation centre has launched a training offensive in cooperation with the large Tunisian dairy company Délice. A modernisation project in India is being implemented within the potato value chain in cooperation with the German agricultural machinery manufacturers Grimme and Lemken.

The Green Innovation Centres are also engaged in cooperation with civil society and associations. In Mali, for example, a cooperation programme for promoting functional literacy is being conducted with the German Adult Education Association. In Ethiopia, the Welthungerhilfe Foundation is providing its support to strengthen farmers’ organisations. A transnational framework for knowledge exchange has been established between women residing in rural areas in Bavaria and those in Kenya.

Consulting firms are also aiding programme implementation in six of the fourteen partner counties.


1,600 jobs have been created, of which 40 per cent have been filled by women and 38 per cent by young people. The programme is working to ensure that these jobs are sustainable.

More than a quarter of a million small farming enterprises have benefited from training courses and advisory services.
89 innovations that contribute to raising incomes and boosting employment have been identified and tested. 47 innovation partnerships with companies, research institutes and civil society organisations have been set up.

Income among small farming enterprises has increased:

  • After attending Farmer Business Schools, the average annual income of potato farmers in Nigeria increased by EUR 600 to EUR 1,170.
  • In Kenya, the income earned by over 3,000 sweet potato farmers, 22 per cent of whom are women, has increased by 22 per cent.
  • By supporting fair trade, the Green Innovation Centres are pursuing one of the central objectives of the Marshall Plan and of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Africa. In Cameroon, for instance, 184 members of a smallholder cacao cooperative are able to sell one kilogram of cacao beans to Germany for an average of EUR 2.00, 40 per cent higher than the price they receive on the local market.

Small farm enterprises have also increased the yields that they achieve:

  • Through the use of rhizobiaceae bacteria for fertilisers and enhanced seeds, agricultural yields in Malawi have increased by around one third. Resilience to the impacts of the El Niño climatic phenomenon has increased.
  • Smallholder farmers in Cameroon have increased their yields by an average of 25 per cent through the introduction of solar dryers within cacao production.
  • Modern ICT applications are contributing to yield increases. Tablet and smartphone apps provide users with information such as whether forecasts, diagnoses on plant diseases and fertiliser recommendations.