On November 4 2022 the African Food Fellowship held its inaugural Transform Food Festival in Nairobi, an annual event to inspire individual and collective action to transform food systems in Kenya. The fete culminated in the Kenya Food Systems Leadership Award ceremony. We catch up with the winners and runners-up.
The well-attended festival was an inspirational gathering designed to showcase innovations in food systems, unlock new ideas and foster strong connections. Ultimately, the Fellowship hopes that the festival will spark action within and beyond the its three impact areas in Kenya; horticulture, aquaculture, and agri-finance. As the dust settled on the engaging activities and discussions, excitement built as evening came and it was time to award the most promising food systems leader and food systems initiative among the pioneering Kenyan cohort.
Nominations for the award were assessed against the scale and impact of the Fellows’ contribution to helping build healthier, more sustainable, and inclusive food systems. The judges scored the nominees based on their contribution to systems change against the following criteria;
Making the issue matter for decision makers
Shifting the incentives toward accelerating new forms of action
Organizing stakeholders for more effective collaboration
Strengthening alignment and direction among stakeholders
Harnessing collective intelligence to improve collaboration and action
First, The Runners Up:
1. Proscovia Alando
Just back from Egypt where she was attending COP27, aquaculture Fellow and SAMAKY Hub founder Proscovia Alando expressed her gratitude for having been recognised as having promising leadership potential and continued commitment to the transformation of food systems. Her systems initiative addresses the negative effects of unaffordable fishmeal for smallholder farmers due to overfishing, use of illegal fishing gear and pollution of Lake Victoria which disproportionally affect women and youth. Her answer? An innovative and collaborative initiative with her colleagues at Ressect Kenya to produce a high-protein, high-fat Black Soldier Fly (BSF)larvae meal which is sustainably farmed. The Fish Site columnist is proud that through her work, she has been part of a 1.2M KES project to set up a BSF facility in Nakuru County, Kenya. Her column also gives farmers access to a global audience.
“I feel so honoured to have my work recognized in this way by The African Food Fellowship,” she said. “Many hours went into consciously implementing my vision for change and walking the talk. It means so much to me that the work I am so passionate about also resonates with others. I will continue my efforts to advocate for sustainability and inclusion in the aquaculture sector and look forward to bringing about positive changes in the field for many years to come.”
2. Safina Musa
Also an aquaculture Fellow, Safina Musa, is tackling overfishing in Lake Victoria and the systemic challenges and health risks that this is posing to women in the region. In addition to boosting fish output and helping generate funds for women's organizations and enhancing food security, Safina also anticipates that the project will help lower the prevalence of jaoboya (the exchange of sexual favours for fish) and help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the lake region. All of the beaches in the riparian counties are expected to replicate the model.
“This recognition has enabled me to learn not to lose sight of the journey by focusing on the destination. It will keep driving me as a scientist towards winning the ultimate goal, which is solving challenges and improving the livelihood of small-holder farmers,” she said.
3. Janet Ngombalu
Agri-finance fellow and socio-economist Janet Ngombalu was recognised for addressing the lack of access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food in domestic open food markets, an issue that was brought to the fore during the CIVID-19 pandemic. Her initiative through the East African Grain Council where she is the project lead, led to a pilot of a Smart Food Market currently under construction, which will serve as a demonstration of Smart Markets for the future. For Janet, this project has demonstrated the power of positive partnerships and leaves her positive that there will be access to safer, more nutritious food.
“I am so excited about this award because it represents hope for the future of food systems transformations in Kenya and the rest of Africa. I will use the knowledge and skills that I have learnt at the African Food Fellowship to provide leadership and marshal key stakeholders and networks in the agri-food systems towards food transformation, poverty reduction and reduced hunger in Africa,” she said.
And the winners are…
Dr Erick Ogello, Most Promising Food Systems Leader
Dr Erick Ogello, the soft-spoken aquaculture Fellow and scholar from Maseno University, was deemed the most promising systems leader for his tireless efforts championing adaptive and community-based research and capacity building for sustainable food production.
With climate change as an emerging stressor to food systems, one of the projects he is involved with is the ‘Climate-smart aquaculture systems project’ funded by the World Bank. This project will enhance fish production, promote system resilience, and limit green-house gas emissions. The tank-based biofloc that he installed at Maseno university has been used to train over 200 fish youths on sustainable fish production techniques while his climate-smart cage culture project has trained 300 youth who can now access gainful employment as well as supporting students through paying for paying for school fees for the poor.
“This award has given me a lot of local and international publicity in the food systems space. I have received tremendous institutional and individual collaborative approaches to further the food systems agenda in Africa. Already, I have got an invitation to travel to WorldFish center next week in Malaysia to attend a write shop on promising technologies and innovations for low emission transformation of aquaculture food systems in Kenya. I intend to use the opportunity to expand my international network and collaborations in the food systems space with other like-minded fellows,” he said.
Frederick Juma, Most Promising Food Systems Initiative
As for the most promising food systems initiative, that honour was given to another inspirational aquaculture fellow, Frederick Juma Ouma. Hydro Victoria Fish Hatchery Farm, his social enterprise, is directly driving livelihoods for 2,130 smallholder farmers and indirectly impacting 10,560 people through insect-biocircular economy, fish-poultry feed and seed production. The judging panel also recognised his systemic and collaborative approach as was showcased in this video here
In an effort to address shortage and high cost of fish feeds and its over-reliance on fishmeal and soymeal, Fredrick took a systemic and collaborative approach, something which he says has been deeply fulfilling.
“The award set the stage for me to participate in the Blue Economy Conference – ARBEC this month to talk about opportunities for youths and women in sustainable aquaculture value chain. I have also since signed an MoU with Victory fish farm to use 4 tonnes of organic fish waste per day to produce 1.5 tonnes of BSFL protein, use scales to make flowers, create employment for youths and women. I now have more collaborations than before,” he says. In the future he hopes to scale production from 250 kilos per month to 1.5 Tons of BSFL, and employ 200 youth and women.
The Food Systems Leadership Award rewards the practical, collaborative and visionary leadership initiatives for inclusive and regenerative food futures on the continent.
“We need bold actions to radically transform food systems that are failing people and the environment”, says Claudia Piacenza, regional manager of the African Food Fellowship. “We know that leaders have an incredible power to harness change and that networks play a big role to connect like-minded leaders. Our ambition is to nurture and self a network of leaders that come together to drive this change.”
Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up. We look forward to even more remarkable nominations and winners next year!