About Us

The CIALCA legacy

The Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) is a longstanding consortium of two (formerly three) international agricultural research centers and national research and development partners that aims to accelerate the impact of agricultural research for development.

Following a call for proposals by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation, Belgium in April 2004, three research proposals were approved:

"Sustainable and Profitable Banana-based Systems for the African Great Lakes Region", led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Kampala, Uganda.

"Building Impact Pathways for Improving Livelihoods in Musa-based Systems in Central Africa", led by the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI-INIBAP, now Bioversity International, Kampala, Uganda).

"Enhancing the resilience of agro-ecosystems in Central Africa: a strategy to revitalize agriculture through the integration of natural resource management coupled to resilient germplasm and marketing approaches", led by the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT), Nairobi, Kenya.

As the above projects proposed to operate largely in the same parts of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), with similar national partner institutes, and due to the complimentary nature of the activities proposed, above institutes agreed to operate as a consortium to ensure cooperation and complementarity and avoid technical and financial duplication at the national level.

Whereas under the first funding phase (2006-2008) CIALCA consisted of three separate projects, under the second funding phase (2009-2011) CIALCA operated officially as one integrated project with the title "Improving agriculture-based livelihoods in Central Africa through sustainably increased system productivity to enhance income, nutrition security, and the environment.

Phase 1 (2006-2008)

The first phase of CIALCA aimed, among others, to determine the agro-ecological, socio-economic and farming systems characteristics of the CIALCA research sites, called "mandate areas". A number of technical research products were delivered, including improved banana and legume germplasm, an improved cassava-legume system, and integrated pest management approaches for bananas.

Phase 2a (2009-2011)

The second phase continued the investments made during the first phase, but with more emphasis on the promotion and dissemination of CIALCA products through collaboration with national extension services and international NGOs and the establishment of a Knowledge Resource Centre in Bujumbura, Burundi. CIALCA 2 also set forth the Consortium’s strong focus on scientific capacity-building, by training over 50 PhD and MSc students in a region that had lost much of its scientific capacity during the many years of conflict. An international scientific conference entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Agricultural Intensification of the Humid-Highland Systems of sub-Saharan Africa was convened by CIALCA in 2011.

Phase 2b (CIALCA+, 2012-2013)

In the context of the reform of the CGIAR system, the formulation of the Humidtropics CGIAR Research Program (CRP) was initiated in early 2010 and from the start, the CIALCA operational area was identified as part of the intervention area for East and Central Africa. CIALCA+ was a bridge to Humidtropics, allowing CIALCA is to integrate its network into the new CRP and to adapt its activities and approaches to the vision, mandate and organization of Humidtropics.
CIALCA+ used agro-ecological intensification as a guiding paradigm, whereby intensification is based on maximizing the use efficiency of agricultural production factors, minimizing negative environmental externalities, and rehabilitating the natural resource base.

Phase 3 (2013-2016)

During Phase 3 (2013-2016), CIALCA became a key operating platform for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) in Central Africa. By building on many years of investment in innovation and partnerships, CIALCA was able to jumpstart activities and mobilize multi-stakeholder networks in Burundi, Rwanda, and eastern DRC. The integrated systems approach includes understanding livelihood diversity, gender, value chains, nutrition, markets, natural resource improvement, institutional innovation, and the scaling of successful innovations through multi-stakeholder partnerships. A one-year extension of CIALCA enabled the synthesis of key lessons learned, as well as engagement with the Belgian Embassy to re-set R4D agenda for the Great Lakes regions. is resulted in new proposals and the alignment of CIALCA under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB). In June 2016, CIALCA celebrated its 10th Year Anniversary with its partners, donors, and alumni.

Phase 4 (2017-2020)

Our current phase on which more elaborate information can be found below.


Phase 1


Phase 2


Phase 3


Phase 4

Whats new in CIALCA 2017-2020?

CIALCA is aligned with the Belgian government’s “strategic note on agriculture and food security” and the CGIAR Strategic Results Framework (SRF) by aligning with the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB) and by bridging to the CRPs on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). In operationalizing its strategy, CIALCA works with government, and public and private partners on three cross-cutting themes:

Crosscutting theme 1: Entrepreneurial farming

CIALCA has embraced the challenge to better understand the pathways for different farmers in stepping-up from “subsistence” (level 4) to “faming with commercial potential” (level 3) and “commercial farming” (level 2). Understanding which innovations (access to fertilizer, credit, knowledge) or conditions (e.g., location, education) enable or constrain farm households can inform government, and public and private sector policies that seek to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurial farming. CIALCA invests in developing farm household typologies to understand the different farmers to support gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Crosscutting Theme 2: ICT for Agriculture

CIALCA invests heavily in developing smart ICT4Ag decision support tools, and training colleagues, students, and decision-makers in using the tools to develop and implement more impactful agricultural development strategies. All CIALCA data is collected using barcode and Open Data Kit (ODK) systems that feed into a centralized database that is freely accessible for CIALCA network and partners. CIALCA collaborates with other CGIAR big data initiatives such as RHoMIS and African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) to ensure that CIALCA data can be integrated at regional and global level. It allows for the development and implementation of agricultural strategies that respond to the needs of different types of farmers in the Great Lakes Region.

Crosscutting theme 3: Integrated agricultural systems for nutrition

Sustainable development requires attention for food security, income, and diet quality. CIALCA has a long tradition of identifying innovations that (i) boost crop productivity, (ii) take into account the commercial potential of crops, and (iii) take into account the dietary diversity of the rural population. In a transition to a more entrepreneurial farming, the way to ensure or create synergies between stepping up to entrepreneurial farming and achieving nutrition outcomes (diet quality and anthropometric measurements) is critical. Increasing productivity and income alone is not sufficient to improve nutritional outcomes such as diet quality and anthropometric measurements. Together with its partners, CIALCA investigates how stepping up towards entrepreneurial farming can benefit and avoid trade-offs for nutritional outcomes at farm and regional levels.