With every new year comes new challenges and new things to look forward to. A question that every food systems leader must ask is; what are some of the big things happening in my industry this year that I have to keep an eye out for? And how do I continue to make steady progress toward delivering a healthy, inclusive, and sustainable food system?
For our Fellows, 2024 promises to be an exciting year of big milestones in food systems. They anticipate and look forward to contributing to food systems actions contributing to uplifting smallholder farmers, mitigating the effects of climate change on food production, promoting organic farming, and checking post-harvest losses and food waste, among others.
For Marie Aimee Ingabire, an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow, promoting the adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) among local farmers is at the top of her agenda.
The sourcing manager at Rwanda’s biggest brewer and soft beverage company, Bralirwa, plans to promote robust extension services which she says will catalyze improved yields and produce quality, effectively translating into better returns for the farmers.
“Extension services will boost incomes for farmers which will not only empower them but also reduce the need for importation by Bralirwa, contributing to a sustainable, localized supply chain. This shift aligns with environmental goals, aiding in the reduction of CO2 emissions associated with transportation and import-related activities,”Marie Aimee Ingabire
Liesa Bidali also has the promotion of sustainable agriculture at the top of her to-do list. She is a Horticulture Fellow in Kenya and runs a farm that is designed to supplement a seniors’ feeding program and offer a basis for entry into farming to a predominantly pastoralist community in her community. This year, Liesa plans to leverage the collaborative skills gained under the African Food Fellowship’s Food Systems Leadership Programme to have even more impact on the ground.
“Getting all hands on deck during decision-making will increase the success rate. This includes combining local knowledge transfer from animal husbandry, and collaborating with the county and other NGOs to invest in efforts that will allow for ease of transition into crop production through proper financing thereby promoting an alternative source of income for households,” she said.
Looking ahead, Jean Paul Ndagijimana and Dieudonne Sindikubwabo, both Access to Nutritious Foods Fellows in Rwanda, are also seeking to cultivate stronger collaboration among different partners in Rwanda to promote a resilient agricultural system that conserves natural resources to produce nutritious and safe food. This is in light of the intensifying effects of climate change with droughts in the east and south, flooding and landslides in the north and west, as well as sporadic rainfall throughout the country, which all cause severe land degradation and subsequently worsen food insecurity.
“In 2024, I foresee a great change in the agricultural production system in Rwanda due to more efforts and strong collaboration among different partners to promote a resilient agricultural system that conserves natural resources to produce nutritious and safe food for a growing consumer base,”Dieudonne Sindikubwabo
On his part, Ndagijimana is betting on technology to deliver similar results.
“I anticipate significant changes in food technology and trade in 2024 as a result of increased positive influence and mobilization around successful implementation of traceability measures, as well as strong cooperation between various partners to support a resilient food system that protects natural resources and produces safe, wholesome food for a market that is expanding,” he said.
Their ambition is shared by their Kenyan colleague Geoffrey Rono, an Agrifinance Fellow. Rono is working to see a future where an innovative and sustainable approach to organic farming enhances agricultural productivity, and the quality of life of farmers in an environmentally friendly way.
“One of the most common questions people ask me is what foods they should eat or should avoid. To transform our diets we have to start with the way we produce our food,”Geoffrey Rono
For Thomas Simbankabo, a Food Tech and Trade Fellow in Rwanda, food waste is the problem that will preoccupy him the most this year. He is actively working to ensure that the environmental impact of food waste gets the attention it deserves especially among the youth and new generation of leaders. The senior technical machine operator at Africa Improved Foods is banking on public education drives, especially in schools, to raise awareness of sustainable food waste management practices.
“This grassroots momentum will catalyze a transformative shift towards a circular economy in Africa, fostering a greener environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting resilient, sustainable agriculture,” he said.