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03.10.2023

60 food systems leaders join African Food Fellowship’s third cohort

Rwanda Food Fellows pose for a group photo during the launch of cohort 3 in Kigali on September 29, 2023

The African Food Fellowship has launched its third cohort of Fellows composed of 60 food systems leaders from Kenya and Rwanda. The Fellows, who come from diverse backgrounds including the public service, private sector, and civil society, began their journey in September 2023 with the 10-month Food Systems Leadership Programme. The programme is delivered virtually and it equips Fellows with the skills, knowledge, and connections needed to initiate and deliver effective food systems actions.

The new Fellows have also become members of the Kenya and Rwanda Food Fellowships, respectively, joining their peers in the impact areas of horticulture, aquaculture, and agrifinance in Kenya, and access to nutritious foods, food tech and trade, and sustainable land use in Rwanda.

In Rwanda, the new cohort is starting at a time when the country is phasing out its fourth strategic plan for agriculture transformation popularly known as PSTA 4, and is in preparation of the PSTA 5 which has a food systems approach at the center of its design.

Rwanda Dean and Implementation Lead Anysie Ishimwe said that the incoming group of Fellows have a golden opportunity to connect with their peers and work together to deliver on the design and implementation of the PSTA 5, and ultimately transform Rwanda’s food systems.

“PSTA 5 is still in the early stages, and it’s going to be the first of its kind that looks at the sector from a food systems angle. We are building a force of people who are at the forefront of understanding this new way of thinking about the sector. Our Fellows have the right knowledge, the right networks, the right attitude to deliver food systems actions that will contribute towards the long-term transformation that we are looking for,” she said

Prof Alfred Bizoza, African Food Fellowship board member and agriculture economist who serves on the team leading the national dialogue around the PSTA5, indicated that much as the country did well with regard to boosting agriculture productivity over the years, challenges persist. Rwanda is still grappling with unmet nutritional needs, yield gaps for major crops, technical inefficiencies of some farming systems, and high vulnerability to climate change.

“All these issues need to be addressed through the lens of food system transformation, and your leadership should play a big part,” he told the new Fellows.

At the Kenya launch, Prof Ken Giller of the Wageningen University & Research called on the new cohort to reimagine leadership not as a solo heroic venture, but as a collaboration among many different players.

“When people think of leadership they think of someone on a pulpit. We need to lead by example, lead with respect, create common visions, be inclusive, and lead from behind,” he said.

“Small actions contribute significantly to dealing with complex long-term problems such as changing food systems.”

Christian Aid country director Janet Ngombalu, who is also a cohort one Kenya Food Fellow, welcomed the new Fellows into the Fellowship, pointing out that it is a game changer for people who want to make an impact in food systems.

“The African Food Fellowship is not just any other program; it sparks your curiosity, passion, and courage to act. It offers you a space to co -co-initiate and co-create solutions. I didn’t see myself as a change-maker but after joining the Fellowship, I am much more confident in my ability as a food systems leader,” she said.

The launch of its third cohort is an affirmation of the African Food Fellowship’s growth trajectory, signaling that the initiative is gaining momentum toward its goal of building a cadre of thousands of food systems leaders across Africa by 2027. The Fellowship, which enrolls new Fellows every year, now counts 171 Fellows in Rwanda and Kenya.

About the African Food Fellowship

The African Food Fellowship is building a radical movement of leaders in Africa working to transform food systems across the continent. We support food systems actors with world-class training, platforms, and networks, to spark collaborative action for healthy, inclusive, and sustainable food systems. The Fellowship is initiated by Wageningen University and Research and Wasafiri Consulting with support from the IKEA Foundation.