Research Institution

ACRA Foundation is an Italian NGO based in Milan and involved in a wide range of projects both in Italy and abroad, focusing on agriculture, education and renewable energy.

Who We Are

ACRA is an NGO committed to removing poverty through market-based solutions with high social and economic impact. In its development work in Africa, Central and Latina America, Asia and Europe, ACRA creates and strengthens social enterprise ventures as powerful agents of change. ACRA builds learning corridors among Regions, facilitating the scaling up of social enterprises across geographies. During its long-standing activity ACRA has maintained a constant focus on four sectors: education, wash, natural resources management and energy, and food; nevertheless, in recent years the Foundation has undergone a profound change, in terms of instruments and approaches used to tackle poverty. We have shifted from a traditional international development approach to one that has inclusive business at its core for the change we promote.

Our Own Experience

ACRA has developed specific expertise in the following thematic areas: food sovereignty and security & nutrition; economic development, social business & micro-finance; energy & environment; education, global citizenship awareness and co-development; water, sanitation & hygiene.  Underlying all interventions is a strong emphasis on the poor and the marginalized; local actors and knowledge; local resources and social entrepreneurs; community-run or community-controlled systems; the provision of basic services tailored to the needs and the rights of the local people; capacity building and strengthening of civil society and authorities; sustainability.  ACRA's efforts consist in supporting farmers and practitioners, both at technical and institutional level, in the creation and diffusion of self-sufficient and sustainable agricultural systems. This commitment is reached through an innovative tri-partite approach of research, extension and education. This means an appropriate knowledge transfer methodology, a sustainable and independent research, a participatory technology transfer and training services for the sustainable development of agriculture and the food processing industry to respond successfully to farmers' demands and to improve the quality of food systems in both urban and rural areas. Through its focus on ITKs, ACRA promotes a reconnection between communities and agricultural activities, and to this end carries out a research and innovation agenda aimed at restoring and valorising traditional knowledge’s in close collaboration with farmers and targeted to their specific environments and preferences. The focus is on communities, in rural areas and small towns in Africa (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea B, Congo, Chad, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique), Asia India and Latin America (Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala). ACRA also has a European programme with activities in Italy and in several other countries across Europe.

Giuseppe De Santis

I’m a continuative collaborator of ACRA since 2009 when I took over the responsibility of the food security and food sovereignty Unit. During my experience with ACRA I developed specific knowledge and competences on public interventions in agriculture linking to nutrition. Starting from 1996, I’ve been working on research and innovation in rural development, sustainable agriculture, participatory research and planning, project management with several NGOs and Research Institutions. I gained professional experience in food security, planning, development and implementation of alternatives policies and practices in food, agriculture and nutrition to challenge the current balance of food systems and effectively tackle hunger. During the last 3 years I’ve been a consultant within the EU Horizon funded project DIVERSIFOOD “Embedding crop diversity and networking for local high-quality food systems” (SFS-07a-2014). I’ve also been a coordinator for the project CERERE Rural Renaissance - Fostering innovation and business opportunities (RUR-10-2016- 2017). Since 2016, I collaborate as consultant into several participatory research programs linked to the transition of the food system, agro-biodiversity and agroecology. I have co-authored over 70 scientific papers. I will contribute to the project with my technical expertise, especially on the set up of the trial plots and development of ToRs for the research foreseen in Task 3.3

Valeria De Paoli

I’m graduated in Environment and Forest Sciences and I’ve been working for more than 12 years in management cooperation projects, with a specific focus on food security, agroecology, and environmental protection. I’m a Desk Officer in the International Cooperation Unit, responsible for the projects in Africa (Chad, Niger) funded by UE, MAECI/AICS, UNHCR, UNICEF, FAO, PAM, Municipality of Milano, CARIPLO and various Foundations. I am also the ACRA focal point on food security. I’m an experienced consultant for the AICS project “Women and rural inclusive development, as a mean to reach food security in Burkina Faso”. I will be supporting the management of the project with my technical expertise and knowledge of the context of Burkina Faso

Rachele Stentella

I graduated in International Relations and in Agro-Environmental Sciences. I've been working on research and innovation in marginal areas, finding solutions facing climate change, from water to field management.
Since I graduated, I have been working with participatory research programmes and planning, mostly related to enhancing agrobiodiversity within the field through participatory plant breeding, the use of local varieties and evolutionary populations.
I also have a strong interest in studying solutions able to increase biodiversity in which cropping and livestock systems are embedded. In particular, the contribution of nature-based-solutions to water retention and water recovery.

Rachele Stentella_EWA-BELT.jpg

I will support the project with my technical expertise, especially on the set up of the trial plots and development of ToRs for the research foreseen in Task 3.3

Nicola Morganti

I am a socio-economist of Italian and Swiss nationality with 23 years’ experience in rural development in Africa. I am a member of ACRA, one of the oldest Italian NGOs, since 1983. From 2012 to 2014 as ACRA Country coordinator, I was involved in setting up and support LUMAMA, a community-based social enterprise managing a 300 kW hydro-electric off-grid power plant providing electricity to 7 villages. I have been elected President of ACRA Board in 2014 and re-elected in June 2017. Within ACRA Executive Board I oversees the development of the energy programme in Africa and Latin America and the development of partnerships with private sector companies. I am also among the founder and board members of Education & Entrepreneurship Ltd, a Tanzanian social enterprise involved in promoting vocational training for rural youth. I will support the implementation of ACRA’s project component from a technical perspective, capitalizing ACRA’s knowledge on rural development and the mobilization of farmers.

Espedito Ippolito

I am an agronomist with post-graduate specialization in rural development obtained both in Italy and in Spain. In the Ewa Belt project, I am in charge of coordinating the participation of the ACRA Foundation and ensuring the proper implementation of all the activities under its responsibility. I have a work experience in international cooperation of almost 15 years, mainly in Africa and Central America where I worked for Italian and international organizations in the fields of: food security, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation and climate change.


In my career, I played different roles and cooperated with a variety of actors at different levels operating in humanitarian aid. I also worked in an emergency context having participated in the international humanitarian response following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that caused more than 200 000 deaths.