KivuGreen, a youth-led enterprise, is strengthening the climate resilience of small-scale farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a mobile service that provides them with real-time forecasts and climate-smart agricultural advice. CEO Chris Ayale explains how KivuGreen contributes to climate adaptation and food security and describes how winning the 2021 YouthADAPT Challenge boosted KivuGreen’s impact.

In North Kivu, a province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), many people make their living as small-scale farmers. But climate change is making farming increasingly difficult, as conditions change and weather patterns become less predictable. This not only threatens their income, but also their food security.

Recognizing this, Chris Ayale, CEO of KivuGreen, stepped in to help small-scale farmers become more adaptive and climate-smart. KivuGreen’s mobile service gives small-scale farmers access to real-time agricultural forecasts, advice, and climate-smart crop calendars. This service is game-changing, as KivuGreen estimated that previously, small-scale farmers were losing 40% of their potential revenue due to a lack of information about how, where, and when to plant crops.

But building the adaptive capacity of these farmers wasn’t simple. Chris became aware of several challenges, from the lack of internet connectivity in rural areas of North Kivu and the prevalence of older generations of mobile phones, to the farmers’ limited purchasing power. He therefore made KivuGreen’s service accessible via SMS, eliminating the need for expensive technology or an internet connection. Chris has seen a significant impact as a result of KivuGreen’s climate-smart service: “With KivuGreen, small-scale farmers have increased their agricultural yield by 40% and their income by 30%.”

As well as making the farmers more food-secure, Chris explains that the increase in their income leaves them with more money to invest in their children’s education, healthcare, sanitary facilities, or sources of non-polluting energy. Chris is also confident that, by increasing the agricultural yield and income of small farmers, KivuGreen contributes to the creation of more jobs for young people in North Kivu.

To scale up KivuGreen’s operations and learn more about climate adaptation, Chris decided to take part in the African Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge (YouthADAPT Challenge), an annual competition that targets Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders between the ages of 18 to 35. The YouthADAPT Challenge is jointly organized by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)the African Development Bank and Climate Investment Funds (CIF).

To his delight, KivuGreen became one of 15 winning enterprises, receiving a development grant of US$100,000. The YouthADAPT grant enabled KivuGreen to invest in improving the AI which powers its service, making it more tailored to the local contexts of the farmers. The grant also helped Chris to popularize the service by raising more awareness of it amongst the local communities of Masisi, Rutshuru, Nyiragongo and Lubero.

Winning GCA’s YouthADAPT Challenge also gave Chris the opportunity to take part in a 12-month business accelerator program to scale up KivuGreen’s operations and build the adaptive capacity of even more farmers. Chris was already passionate about agriculture and sustainable development, but the mentoring he received deepened his understanding of climate adaptation and fueled his desire to innovate further:
“It inspired me to come up with new ideas for setting up other digital solutions in the future to adapt to or mitigate climate change.”

According to Chris, youth accelerators and incubators are important for young Africans living in rural areas. They can help people to better understand the significance of climate change and, importantly, teach them how to take advantage of the business opportunities that climate adaptation presents.

His message to young Africans is that the agricultural sector is of course a victim of climate change, but it can also be one of the greatest drivers of adaptation and food security – and investing in agri-tech solutions is key. As for KivuGreen, Chris has big ambitions for the future:
“The next step is to raise funds to scale up this solution to cover the whole DRC and duplicate the same solution in other African countries that face the same problems.”

Helping youth-led enterprises like KivuGreen to scale up their adaptation solutions is what the African Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge (YouthADAPT Challenge) is all about. The YouthADAPT Challenge is an annual competition and awards program for youth-led enterprises jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), GCA, and Climate Investment Funds. The YouthADAPT Challenge is part of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), an Africa-owned and Africa-led initiative launched jointly by GCA and AfDB with the support of the African Union and African leaders.

Through four transformative pillars – one of which is Youth Entrepreneurship and Adaptation Jobs – the AAAP is mobilizing $25 billion for adaptation investments in Africa in the next five years. GCA’s AAAP Upstream Financing Facility is mainstreaming the best climate adaptation science and solutions into programs across Africa. In its first 24 months of operation, the Upstream Financing Facility has influenced more than $5.2 billion in downstream investments with Multilateral Development Banks in 19 countries across Africa.