Understanding and scaling organizations for smallholder resilience | Global Challenges Programme project

Photo: Mann (ILRI)

Project description

This project on understanding and scaling organizational structures for smallholder resilience (OSMARE) in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe aims to define how the organizational structures of thirteen selected business models in the five countries stimulate smallholder resilience to market, social and environmental shocks through climate-smart agriculture (CSA) related incentives. 

Smallholder resilience represents a crucial ability for farmers to adapt to unexpected systemic shocks inherent to agri-food systems. Agribusiness managers and development actors, as well as farmers themselves, can use these organizational structures as levers to enhance smallholder resilience, thus fostering competitiveness, inclusiveness and mitigating or preventing the effects of climate change in the medium and long run.

Based on the findings from two complementary studies involving 2,600 farmers in three years, results will be disseminated and discussed with local farmer organizations and their stakeholders, including agribusiness managers and development actors, to draw actionable implications for scaling up and scaling out innovative and best-fit business models to support the transformation to climate-smart agriculture.


  • Study 1, with a wider data outreach, will involve quantitative analysis on the relationship between organizational structures in the thirteen business models and farmer resilience. Approaches include sampling approximately 2,600 smallholders, structural equation modelling (SEM).
  • Study 2, with a deeper analytical focus, entails in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis on how the change of organizational structures in two business models – i.e., new actors involved, new CSA-related incentives provided by these actors, and/or newly introduced mechanisms of decision-making and enforcement of decisions - influence smallholder resilience over time. Approaches include sampling approximately 400 smallholders, content analysis, latent growth modelling.

Expected outcomes

  • Reduced risk from systemic shocks: 50,000+ smallholder farmers and their organizations, of which 50% are women and/or youth, have prevented the adversarial effects from environmental, socio-political and market shocks.
  • Reduced poverty: 50,000+ smallholder farmers and their families, of which 50% are women and/or youth, have developed entrepreneurial competencies and networks associated with strategic resources to adopt improved environmental, social and market practices.
  • Improved food and nutrition security: 50,000+ smallholder farmers and their families, of which 50% are women and/or youth, have eliminated deficiencies in micronutrients through improved food production, value networks and market position.

Gender and youth

In conducting the research and deriving implications for scaling, a gender approach will be integrated in multiple ways. First, seven out of the thirteen selected CSA business models explicitly target women and youth economic empowerment and entrepreneurship as a key objective. Second, a representative sample of women from the thirteen cases will be interviewed according to the selection procedure (see section E). Third, the data analysis will be performed across gender groups to assess and inform how organizational structures of CSA business models may differently influence male and female smallholders, with implications for gender inclusiveness.


  • Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
  • Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)
  • Zimbabwe Super Seeds (ZSS)
  • World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

More information

For more information, please contact the project leaders:

Funding for this project is provided by: