The beginning of the year is a time punctuated by optimism and excitement, where many people are inspired to make resolutions and create goals. Many of us will make resolutions this year, digging into our psyche to imagine the best possible versions of ourselves and work to make them a reality.
It is no different for our Rwandan Fellows who joined the Food Systems Leadership Programme in November 2021. They are dreaming big and shooting for the stars, determined to make the best and the most of what 2022 has to offer. In these reflective interviews, they tell us what excites them the most and gets their blood pumping in the new year.
Sustainable Land Use Fellow Thacien Munyamahane (right) in the field with a beneficiary of the Youth in Agroecology and Business Learning Track in Africa (YALTA) program that he manages in Rwanda.
“I am motivated to keep digging deep. I want to understand issues better and apply strategies to transform food systems in developing countries. More specifically, I am looking at how we can solve the challenge of stunting in children in Rwanda. The rate of stunting is still at an alarming 33%, which calls for renewed efforts, more funds and innovative interventions,” says Jean Yves Ntimugura, an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow. His ambition is to bring the country’s stunting rate to below 20% as per the World Health Organization threshold of severity.
For Florence Mwashimba, an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow, the magic is in picking up lessons she has gleaned from the African Food Fellowship in the past year and applying them to make meaningful change this year.
A vendor at Kigalifaam displays her goods to customers. Kigalifaam, which is run by Access to Nutrition Fellow Florence Mwashimba, provides a platform for buying and selling locally produced goods.
“The biggest lesson I have learnt is that as a leader I don’t know and won’t know everything. This has taught me to listen and learn from others,” says Florence. This new understanding of herself, her role and her capabilities has given her confidence to take on new challenges this year.
“I have been working on a new website for my business, Kigali Farmers and Artisans Market, to take information on access to nutrition and a healthy lifestyle much closer to people in Rwanda. I plan to unveil it this month. I have taken lessons from other players in the sector and I am feeling very positive about it. I am proud of myself and what I have done and unlearnt to create it,” she says.
Florence runs Kigali Farmers and Artisans Market (Kigalifaam), which she describes as “Impact Entrepreneurship offering flexible and scalable business solutions to MSMEs, home industries, and the community in Rwanda, as well as other African countries.”
Sustainable Land Use Fellow Thacien Munyamahame also plans to follow through on his lessons from the Fellowship. He envisions 2022 as a year for professional and personal development where he can use his skills to solve the most pressing issues facing agri-preneurs in Rwanda.
“The African Food Fellowship has taught me how the food system approach works and how to advance and scale my work for better results. I hope that in 2022, the programme will help me to improve my skills even more by providing a platform for learning from other Fellows and trainers, as well as being able to initiate connections to the youth with the right actors and for the development of viable business models supported by appropriate financial solutions,” he says.
He foresees a future where he is equipped to conduct effective advocacy for agroecology promotion in Rwanda, while ensuring that the youth are at the centre of the discussion and action, from identifying major issues to co-developing solutions.
Paula Mutesi believes in the power of play and rest as radical agents of positive change in society. In 2022, the Food Entrepreneurship Fellow plans to not only learn from her peers but also to glean joy from her interactions with them.
“I am looking forward to more fun and laughter — and more interactive action, more learning that dives deeper into my impact area in order to make a change in Rwanda food systems. I am looking forward to more discussions and interactions with the faculty and fellows. I am excited to meet new people in 2022 and make lasting connections,” she says.