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.
  • “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.
  • “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).
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 (2006-8)

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 1 final report

Phase 2 (2009-11)

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 2 final report

Phase 2b (CIALCA+, 2012-13)

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. CIALCA+ final report

Phase 3 (2013-16)

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 3 final report

Phase 4 (2017-20)

CIALCA 2017-2020 aims to serve as a catalytic partner to mobilize partnerships, capacity building and scientific research for meeting local demand of various public and private partners in supporting farmers to transition from subsistence to entrepreneurial farming. Implementation research on how to effectively introduce, adapt and manage agricultural innovations to transform livelihoods,moves upfront and take research for development to the next level. We will use and develop capacity for state-of-the-art research tools and methods, including mobile phone based decision support systems and a central, open access CIALCA-base. CIALCA will thereby facilitate access to science and decision support for banana- and cassava-based systems to development partners, private sector organizations, and policy makers operating within the Great Lakes Region. Belgium supports new phase of CIALCA (Press release)