Horticulture Innovation Lab Program


The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has collaborated with the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) to establish the East Africa Horticulture Regional Hub. ICED’s Nairobi Office serves as the office of the East Africa Horticulture Regional Hub. The Innovation Lab’s global research network advances fruit and vegetable innovations, empowering smallholder farmers to earn more income while better nourishing their communities. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and led by a team based at University of California, Davis, as part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative.

Within the next four years, the Horticulture Innovation Lab is focusing its efforts on the East Africa region with the aim to implement a locally led, globally supported program that will produce systemic, sustainable, and inclusive improvements in the horticulture sector. Despite, East Africa region having favourable climate, the great potential of horticulture sector remains unrealized due to several challenges along the value chain. Alongside the constraints, there exists unexplored opportunities for inclusive growth for all actors such as women and the youth in the sector. Identification and prioritization of the challenges and opportunities by key stakeholders and practitioners in the horticulture value chain is critical for targeted interventions to achieve productive, efficient, sustainable, and inclusive growth of the horticulture sector in East Africa Region.


  •  Promote projects in the East Africa region targeting small scale farmers that will tackle challenges and seize opportunities in the horticulture industry.
  • Coordinate and monitor projects within the region.
  • Facilitate the exchange of innovative ideas and technologies to contribute to practical and academic horticultural pursuits.
  • Develop capacity of local networks to equitably respond to regional needs.
  • Cultivate in-country networks including USAID mission relationships.

East Africa Horticulture Hub Research Priority

In May 2022, the feed the future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, East Africa Region Hub organized the first Consultative Workshop which brought together regional leaders, local horticulture experts, academia, private sector, the Lab consortium, and other relevant stakeholders with the intention to identify on-the-ground challenges and opportunities within the region. The consultative workshop explored avenues for addressing the identified challenges through research or capacity building activities. The consultative workshop was preceded by Desk review and key Informant Interviews with key stakeholders within the East Africa Region. This led to the development of East Africa Regional Horticulture Workshop report, which detailed the various challenges and opportunities within the horticulture sector. 

Click here to view the report.

In November 2022, the East Africa regional hub manager joined the other regional hub managers from West Africa, Central America and South Asia together with Lab management team and consortium partners in Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Florida, USA. The goal for this meeting was for each regional Hub to establish clear priorities and subthemes which informed the Request for Proposal (RFP) for projects spanning 2023 to 2026. The key research Priorities for East Africa are;

  • Pre-harvest and post-harvest management to reduce post-harvest losses
  • Enhanced marketing and market access of vegetables in the East Africa region.

This led to the development of the East Africa RFP titled: Transforming the horticulture sector in East Africa for better incomes and improved livelihoods for small scale farmers. 

Click here to view the RFA.

In March 2023, the Innovation Lab for Horticulture awarded 3 projects from the East Africa region. The awarded projects will be implemented by local organizations in Kenya and Uganda with the goal of empowering smallholder farmers to earn more income while better nourishing their communities.

ILH Statements

“The horticulture sector makes significant contribution to the collective GDP of the region. But smallholder horticulture farmers still face bottlenecks around access to market and inability to meet the required quality for export…This initiative will seek to generate evidence and insights that will support formulation of evidence-based policies to strengthen the sector.” — Dr. David Sarfo Ameyaw, ICED President and CEO

 “The Conference theme aligns with the Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS), 2019-2029, that highlights the Government’s initiatives to build households’ food resilience by increasing smallholder farmers’ incomes through supporting high agricultural productivity and value addition.,” “The Strategy recognizes that Kenya’s vibrant agribusiness sector has tremendous potential to be a powerful engine of transformation. The implementation as much as possible is to be done through the private sector.”— Josephine Simiyu, Head of Regulations and Compliance, Horticulture Crops Directorate-Agriculture and Food Authority

 “Identification and prioritization of the challenges and opportunities in the Horticulture sector by key stakeholders and practitioners is critical for targeted interventions to achieve productive, efficient, sustainable, and inclusive growth of the horticulture sector in East Africa.” Dr. Peninah Yumbya, East Africa Horticulture Regional Hub Manager

“Fruits and vegetables play a crucial role in nourishing our communities. We are excited to collaborate with ICED and our global partners in addressing challenges and seizing opportunities in horticulture. Together, we strive to ensure that East African families have access to essential nutrients while ensuring farmers can generate successful livelihoods within horticultural production and marketing.” — Erin McGuire, Associate Director, Feed the Future ILH

Management Team

David S Ameyaw

East African Horticulture Lab Hub Director

Peninah Yumbya

Hub Manager

Annesofie Misiani

Program Assistant

Advisory Board

Prof. Jane Ambuko

Associate Professor of Horticulture, Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, University of Nairobi.

Prof. Arnold Opiyo

Associate Professor of Horticulture, Egerton University.


Horticulture Program Information

The three newly awarded projects and their foci are as follows:

  1. Enhancing Productivity, Post-harvest Management, and Market Access of African Indigenous Vegetables in Kenya. The lead implementing institution is the Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) in collaboration with the University of Nairobi and North Carolina State University.

Project Description

African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) play a critical role in food, nutrition and income security in Kenya. AIVs are rich in vitamins and minerals and are widely consumed by those most vulnerable to food insecurity. Thus, they could diversify and complement staple-based diets since they are a cost-effective and sustainable source of micronutrients. However, the AIVs value chain remains fragmented without strong linkages between actors from inputs to production, marketing, and consumption. Production, which is primarily by smallholder women, is largely inefficient, where individual farmers produce small quantities for a market that is erratic, uncoordinated and often unrelated to demand. These issues lead to high transaction costs in AIVs marketing, which increase inefficiencies along the value chain, leading to low market performance and low social economic benefits. The overall goal of this 3.5-year project is to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses and enhance market access of African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) for improved livelihoods of value chain actors, specifically smallholder women and youth farmers. The specific objectives for this project are: 1. Establish, quantify and address critical sources of pre-harvest losses within the value chain to increase AIVs productivity, 2. Enhance post-harvest management, value addition and safety of AIVs to improve nutrition and dietary diversification in rural and urban households, 3. Strengthen linkages to input and output markets for smallholder farmers, specifically women and youths, and 4. Build capacity for smallholder farmers and cooperatives on climate-smart technologies, innovations and management practices. The project is being implemented in Kisii and Kakamega counties of Kenya, where AIVs are an important enterprise for women.

Project PI: Dr. Mumina Shibia from the Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organization

  1. Developing innovative horticulture technologies for small-scale women farmers in Uganda. The lead implementing institution is Muni University, Uganda.

Project Description

The overall objective of the 3.5-year project is to develop innovative horticulture technologies for improved income and livelihoods among small scale women farmers in Uganda. Horticulture plays an important role in food security, employment opportunities and income generation. The project methodology follows The Embedded Research Translation (ERT) approach. All farmers and other stakeholders will be integrated early and throughout the research collaboration. The project will ensure that research outcomes are taken up and applied. The project targets women (70 %) and men (30 %). Out of these, the host population and refugees are expected to participate. The specific objectives for this project are: 1. Evaluate different agronomic practices for reduced losses in vegetables, 2. Evaluate different postharvest practices for reduced losses in vegetables, 3. Evaluate different marketing and market access strategies for vegetables by farmers. The project is being implemented in the 6 out of 12 districts in the West Nile Region of Uganda.

Project PI: Prof. Robert Kajobe from Muni University, Uganda                               

  1. Determining the cost-benefit of integrating horticulture into staple crop production in Kenya. The lead implementing institution is the International Center for Evaluation and Development (ICED).

Project Description

 The demand for horticulture products has increased globally over the last decade. However, in terms of value and to some extent volume, the sector is still dominated by commercial farmers, whose production largely targets international markets. Despite the critical role of the sector in job creation, improved nutrition, and income generation through exports, many small-scale farmers still prioritize the cultivation of cereal crops such as maize rather than increasing their production for horticulture products such as vegetables. It is therefore important to understand the economic viability of horticulture production for small-scale farmers compared to staple production. The current project aims to assess the costs and benefits of transitioning to horticultural production from production of staple crops for small-holder producers (especially females) in Kenya. The study intends to undertake a cost-benefit, trade-off, and land-use analyses at the household and local levels as may be appropriate. The study output will inform policy makers and small-scale female farmers on how making a shift to vegetable production or expanding the cultivation area of the same would impact household nutritional status and income. The specific objectives for this project are: 1. To undertake cost-benefit analysis of transitioning to horticulture production (especially vegetables) from production of staple crops for small-holder farmers (especially women) in Kenya, 2. To examine how and the extent to which female small-holder farmers make decisions on trade-offs across nutritious diet, income, land use and time availability. The project is being implemented in Murang’a, Kisii and Vihiga Counties of Kenya.

Project PI: Solomon Walelign, International Center for Evaluation and Development

Critical Engagement Project

Determining the trade-offs between short and long horticulture value chains in Kenya. This project was awarded in October 2022 and is being implemented by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and GROOTs Kenya.

Project Description

This project seeks to investigate the nutritional, economical, and social (gender equity and youth engagement) impacts on producers along both short and long value chains of banana, mango, tomato, Kales, Cowpeas and African Nightshade, and determine to what extent are ICTs incorporated and what are their benefits and or impacts. The study outputs will increase understanding of the level of penetration and utilization of ICT in selected horticulture value chains; inform evidence on suitable horticulture access pathways that increase stability in markets and increase value chain efficiencies; document the enabling environments and key characteristics that facilitate positive aspects of access pathways and establish how access pathways can either marginalize or empower vulnerable groups. The specific objectives for this project are: 1. To investigate the nutrition, economic, and social outcomes of short vs. long value chains, 2. Determine the effect of ICTs on possible nutrition, economic, and social outcomes within these value chains, 3. Analyze the trade-offs (and synergies) occasioned by ICT within different value chains and possible mitigation strategies.

Project PI and Co-PI: Prof. Willis Owino (JKUAT) and Dr. Fridah Githuku (GROOTs Kenya)