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  • Schafer Bomstein Castella & Daniel Gies

Engaging the Public Sector to Drive Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

Editor's note (Michael Field from the Vikāra Institute):

The blog provides a good example of a project supporting specific and important technical fixes. It also provides an example of the importance of understanding the various roles that public and private sector actors can take in a given context and how they can fit together to support the adoption of solutions. From a systems thinking perspective, challenges also emerge in how a system will change over time and in a direction that leads to ongoing improvements in competitiveness, inclusivity, and resilience. For example, government extension services are often important in supporting basic agricultural practices. But, over the long term, government extension services are not the most important source of information on how to farm commercially as the market system has to provide that feedback based on changing needs and interests of consumers. From a climate change perspective, a central systemic challenge is how to align market forces and factors, so that market systems more effectively respond to the dynamic risks of climate change - a central question explored in the M4CC Community of Practice.


International development today plays an increasingly critical role in the world’s efforts to address the challenges of climate change. At CNFA, we have long understood that the most efficient and effective way to drive the creation and implementation of sustainable climate adaptation and mitigation solutions is to engage the public and private sectors in joint efforts that leverage their relative strengths and capabilities. And we have had success in identifying and developing opportunities for this sort of public-private cooperation.

In Rwanda, a country that is keenly aware of the economic and environmental challenges associated with climate change, USAID recently completed the $32.6 million Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity, implemented by CNFA. Agriculture — which accounts for over 60 percent of Rwanda’s employment and 90 percent of the country’s food needs — is especially vulnerable to the effects of changing climate. Over the past 20 to 30 years, droughts and heavy rainfall have led to poor agricultural productivity and food shortages acutely affecting vulnerable populations, particularly smallholder farmers, women, and youth.

The Government of Rwanda (GoR) has recently taken important steps to address these threats, developing terracing and irrigation strategies for the country’s most climate-affected districts and working with international and local partners to implement these strategies. The GoR also established special-purpose funds for the mitigation of climate risks in order to generate additional funds from other partners.

As the prime implementer of Hinga Weze, CNFA was in a position to participate in and observe what stands out as one of the most remarkable examples of how effectively private and public entities can work together to bolster environmental sustainability, strengthen food resilience and generate lasting economic benefits.

The Hinga Weze Activity, which focused on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, emphasized climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches and social behavior change across ten districts of Rwanda. Guided by the Activity’s motto — “Farmers Grow More, Sell More and Use that Income to Eat Better,” — productivity throughout the 10 districts were improved by more than 50 percent over five years of implementation.

A key success factor in Hinga Weze’s success was a policy of “aggressive collaboration” that led to the close mutual relationship between GoR and the private sector, which in turn created an enabling environment that helped farmers adopt climate-smart technologies and practices. This approach included identifying and fostering shared objectives between the public and private sectors.

These objectives included:

  • Increasing internal capacity to co-design and develop public-private partnerships to benefit Rwandans and foster economic growth;

  • Accessing additional donor resources that complement public and private initiatives;

  • Improving public systems and infrastructure to benefit the private sector, including farmers and agribusinesses;

  • Addressing the impacts of climate change through collaboration and mobilizing additional investment.

Through this collaboration approach, Hinga Weze generated $1.63 in investment from the public and private sectors for every $1.00 of USAID funding, demonstrating the co-benefits for government and the private sector.

Hinga Weze also strengthened local extension services by supporting the GoR’s Twigire Muhinzi national extension program and helping over 8,000 farmer promoters, farmer field school facilitators and youth leaders to provide in-person and digital extension services to farmers, focusing on climate smart practices. This approach was institutionalized through Hinga Weze and the Ministry of Agriculture’s co-creation of the Customized Agricultural Extension System (CAES). Hinga Weze facilitated new and leveraged existing government interventions through co-signing agreements with local leaders, while incentivizing the private sector to drive investments in climate adaptation—such as improved farm inputs and technologies. Through an ambitious partnership with the Ministry of Health, Hinga Weze also trained over 200,000 families on increasing on-farm production and processing of nutritious foods supporting the achievement of improvements in nutrition. Hinga Weze interventions led to 12.9 percent increase in the percent of children receiving a minimum acceptable diet and 40.4 percent increase in the percent of women of reproductive age consuming a minimum acceptable diet, both exceeding contract targets.

Through Hinga Weze, CNFA facilitated the creation of robust public-private partnerships to install solar-powered irrigation pumps which improved productivity, environmental sustainability, and incomes for farmers in some of the hilliest parts of Rwanda, where farmers face floods and other impacts of climate change. Hinga Weze also established partnerships with district governments and local communities to establish and rehabilitate 2,000 hectares of terraces, which benefitted more than 8,200 farmers by increasing their yield and incomes. Together, these strategies helped to drive high mobilization of local resources to achieve jointly agreed climate mitigation and adaptation targets.

Through its strategy of close engagement and collaboration, Hinga Weze and its public, private and community partners supported a total of 734,583 smallholder farmers in 10 of the districts facing the highest levels of malnutrition in Rwanda and helped a total of 40,683 households to generate additional income that can be used to purchase nutritious foods for their families.

There is little doubt that Hinga Weze serves as an exceptional example of how partnerships between international development entities, governments, and local communities can effectively and sustainably improve food productivity and security.

Schafer Bomstein Castella is an associate director, technical program development and Daniel Gies is a senior advisor at CNFA and the former Chief of Party of the Hinga Weze Activity.


Schafer Bomstein Castella

Daniel Gies

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