The second cohort of Rwanda Food Fellows graduated on Thursday, December 7, 2023, after completing the prestigious 10-month Food System Leadership Programme offered by the African Food Fellowship.
The programme is the first-of-its-kind food systems leadership initiative in Africa equipping participants with the skills, knowledge, and connections needed to initiate and deliver effective food systems actions, effectively responding to leadership gaps in the agriculture sector in Rwanda and beyond.
The 28 graduating Fellows have now joined their peers from cohort one who graduated last year and will continue their leadership journey through the Rwanda Food Fellowship, a self-organising space for connecting, learning, acting, and belonging. They constitute a radical movement of leaders working to collaborate and innovate to deliver impact on the ground.
“In a world that is increasingly becoming interconnected, the ability to work with others is an invaluable skill, and that’s what this program offers to us. It gave me a platform to meet two colleagues from different impact areas and we are partnering on an initiative that seeks to empower youth to be at the forefront of transforming the food system. As Fellows remember that your impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the Fellowship. You are stepping into a position of influence and responsibility,” said Thacien Munyamahame, a member of the first cohort.
The Fellows already occupy leading positions in their respective areas of work and have demonstrated the capacity and ambition to craft solutions to Rwanda’s existing and emerging food system challenges, particularly in the impact areas of Food Tech and Trade, Access to Nutritious Foods, and Sustainable Land Use.
At the graduation ceremony, the graduates, whose specialties range from food production, research, and policymaking, showcased their ongoing food systems actions. These are activities designed to create enabling conditions for food systems to thrive. They include innovations in areas such as food and nutrition security, climate change mitigation, poverty alleviation, and regenerative agriculture, among others.
“I’m supporting smallholder farmers’ access to markets. This is a group of people that for a long time did not have a market at the community level. We are working with them to bring their small land parcels together so that they can forge a partnership,” said Therese Uwamahoro, a Food Tech and Trade Fellow.
Speaking at the graduation, Rwanda Dean and Country Implementation Lead Anysie Ishimwe urged the group to leverage the acquired skills and networks to tackle the different problems that the country’s food system faces.
“With leadership comes responsibility. The next step now is for you to go out and act, use everything you have learned, tap into the networks you have built to go and implement actions that can change food systems,” she said. She indicated that Fellows are in a good position to design and deliver the aspirations of Rwanda’s next phase of agriculture sector transformation strategy (PSTA5).
Prof. Alfred Bizoza, an African Food Fellowship board member, hailed the leadership program for elevating the leadership skills of participating Fellows to, among other things, forge new paths for the benefit of many in their respective communities.
“I want you to go beyond the trap of only learning, let’s move towards doing. The food system is critical and we need to have leaders to promote changes that we need. And that leader is you,” he said.
The African Food Fellowship is now home to over 150 Fellows in Rwanda and Kenya and is poised to recruit a fourth cohort in early 2024. The third cohort of Fellows in both countries joined the Food Systems Leadership Programme in October 2023 and will be graduating in August 2024.
Below, the Fellows (second from right) pose with their certificates flanked by dean Anysie Ishimwe (right), regional manager Claudia Piacenza (left), and board member Prof Alfred Bizoza.