Dr Candida Nakhumwa (in white t-shirt) interacting with hackathon innovators


To promote smallholder agricultural productivity, diversification and increased incomes through science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization.


The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) is
purposely  designed to be an inclusive science, technology, and smallholder farmer incubation center of excellence that helps Malawian smallholder tobacco and non-tobacco farmers make economically viable, data-driven decisions for diversifying their livelihoods. The aim of CAT is to transform Malawian agriculture systems and the lives of Malawian smallholder farmers by giving them access to inclusive innovation in agricultural science and technology through a range of commercialization channels. The CAT facilitates the development of new technologies, partnerships, and income opportunities to help farmers achieve greater economic success. The CAT is made possible by a five-year (2019-2024) support from the Foundation for a Smoke-free World (FSFW)  with technical support from its affiliate  the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI), which aims to diversify tobacco-dependent economies. The CAT is implemented as a consortium comprising four leading agricultural development and academic institutions: Land O’Lakes Venture37, University of Minnesota, Stellenbosch University, and Malawi University of Science. The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) hosts the two CAT Smart Farms at its Bunda and NRC Campuses.”


The CAT facilitates the development of new technologies, partnerships, and income opportunities to help farmers achieve greater economic success. It also aims to transform Malawian agricultural systems and the lives of Malawian smallholder farmers by giving them access to inclusive innovation in agricultural science and technology through a range of commercialization channels.

CAT includes a suite of services and programs to achieve this goal. One is the Science Technology and Innovation (STI) component, which supports research into promising innovation in alternative value chains to tobacco through funding for university research, operation of Smart Farms to test and demonstrate crop innovations, and data solutions work that includes deploying ground sensors and providing data tool to businesses to make informed decisions. Another flagship program of CAT is Incubation, Acceleration and Commercialization portfolio which supports partners that are working in alternative value chains  to tobacco. There were an estimated 20,256 direct beneficiaries of CAT programs in the October 2021-September 2022 season, and the vast majority of them came from beneficiaries of the Incubation, Acceleration and Commercialization portfolio. Along with operating an innovation challenge program to stimulate entrepreneurship among students and farmers, CAT provides milestone-based support  as well as technical assistance to expand partner operations in order to increase the number farmers they work with and their overall sales. The 30 partners have provided various support to the farmers, including input provision, training and technical assistance, and guaranteed market access. This helps to further the CAT goals of increasing the number of farmers adopting improved technologies in the supported value chains, increasing the land area under these improved technologies, and increasing farmer incomes. Currently, the partners are working with the farmers in the following districts, most of which are tobacco producing Districts: Lilongwe, Mchinji, Kasungu, Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Mangochi, Zomba, Blantyre, Ntcheu, Dedza, Dowa, Ntchisi, and Zomba. This includes areas across all three regions of Malawi, though the majority of businesses and their beneficiaries are located in the central region. Value chains covered by the businesses include soybean, groundnut, cassava, sunflower, horticulture, bananas, livestock, mushrooms, honey, and hemp.

Farmers listening to a presentation on soy bean production
CAT Partners getting ready for a field day
Farmer field day at CAT-Bunda Smart Farm


Expanding “ready-markets” for small-holder farmers in alternative value chains


Increasing adoption and productivity for Malawian Smallholder tobacco farmers through improved ag tech 


Increased Smallholder tobacco farmers market opportunities & incomes to diversify from tobacco


Enabling a data-rich environment for agricultural transformation


Ensuring environmental & organizational sustainability of the CAT as an entity 


SME coaching & mentoring
Demand generation for growers
Access to finance

Support for acceleration 
Targeted technical assistance
Market linkages (B2B)
VC matchmaking events

30 partner businesses
$5.2M in total sales in 2022
$1.2M in increased sales in 2022

CAT and JAT officials pose for a photo during a monitoring visit