30 Fellows picked for Food Systems Leadership Programme in Rwanda

The African Food Fellowship is now in Rwanda. The Fellowship launched the first class of its Food Systems Leadership Programme on November 1 at a virtual ceremony presided over by Rwanda’s Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana.

Dr Mukeshimana welcomed the initiative, terming it a timely step towards the new thinking that Africa needs to effectively transform its food systems. She congratulated the Fellows for joining the prestigious programme, and challenged them to explore innovative ways of initiating and supporting enterprises in agriculture and scaling their impact on food systems.

“This is not an opportunity that comes by every day. Take advantage of it and learn from each other, build networks and collaborations,” she said.

Dr Mukeshimana urged the Fellows to be resilient and committed to driving transformative change in the continent. Drawing from her own illustrious career, she challenged the Fellows to aim higher, work harder and never give up even in the face of adversity. The minister said food and nutrition security remain the continent’s priority. “The challenge we have as Rwanda and Africa is to increase the productivity to feed our people and trade among ourselves as Africans, and to conserve the environment. Most importantly, we must make sure that the continent’s food systems generate decent livelihoods for all,” she said.

African Food Fellowship Director Joost Guijt hailed Rwanda’s progress towards realising the continent’s ambition to end hunger by 2025. He said food systems in Africa face many complex and connected challenges that require effective leadership at every level, from every perspective, to understand the systemic causes and make the difficult decisions needed for system-wide change.

“We are very impressed by the professional and personal quality of the group. Over 300 people applied, 30 were selected. The Rwanda launch builds on what we have been successfully trialing in Kenya, where Fellows are in the next stage of their programme,” he said.

Speaking at the ceremony, renowned food systems leader Dr Eliane Ubalijoro said the continent’s biggest burden was “how to feed our populations while conserving our natural environment. It is critical that we adopt regenerative food systems.” Dr Ubalijoro, who is also the Executive Director of Sustainability in the Digital Age and the Global Hub Director in Canada for Future Earth, said food systems leaders must be able to look at the complexity and interactions of challenges and contexts such as gender, age, land usage and food demand to be effective changemakers.

Dr Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, an Associate Professor at Wageningen University & Research, said building strong networks was central to tackling food systems challenges. “Consumption is acknowledged not just as a problem but also as an opportunity. Looking at consumption patterns and how individual plates relate to broader food systems would be a good starting point towards defining and resolving challenges,” Dr Wertheim-Heck said. The 30 Fellows are spread cross three impact areas, 10 each for access to nutritious food; sustainable land use and labour ; and food entrepreneurship.

They were competitively chosen on the quality of their applications, how well they fit into the impact areas and how well they did in interviews. The Fellows will enjoy a highly interactive four-month training for Systems Insight followed by six months of coaching, technical mentoring, reflection and sharing in Systems Action.

The Fellowship was launched in May in Kenya, with 30 Fellows drawn from three impact areas of agri-finance, horticulture and aquaculture. The Kenyan Fellows are currently in the Systems Action stage where they are working with world-class leadership coaches and mentors to develop their skills and bring their food transformation ideas and concepts to life. The Fellowship targets to expand to 30 countries in 10 years. It enjoys technical support from researchers and practitioners from Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri, a global consultancy, and financial support from IKEA Foundation.

Full list of fellows and their impact areas of study.

Access to nutritious food

  1. Florence Mwashimba
  2. Theogene Dusingizimana
  3. Jean Yves Ntimugura
  4. Ella Liliane Mukakalisa
  5. Christella Mukakalisa
  6. Darius Bazimya
  7. Aime Kayumba
  8. Jean Baptist Ndahetuye
  9. Kaze Ange Aimee
  10. Joan Mutoni
  11. Eugene Nzaramba
  12. Josine Umuhire Munyentwali

Sustainable Land Use

  1. Juvenal Kabagambe
  2. Esther Ndungutse Mukundane
  3. Francois Hakorimana
  4. Francoise Umarishavu
  5. Alexis Rutagengwa
  6. Petronille Dusingizimana
  7. Assumpta Uzamukunda
  8. Innocent Bisangwa
  9. Mutiganda Daniel

Food entrepreneurship

  1. Abdu Usanase
  2. Valentine Uwase
  3. Kate Ojungo
  4. Herve Tuyishime
  5. Janvier Ahimanishyize
  6. Epiphanie Karekezi
  7. Kelvin Odoobo
  8. Paula Mutesi
  9. Thacien Munyamahame