We’re building a movement, one cohort at a time – says Fellowship dean

The inaugural Food Systems Leadership Programme is off to a defining start. The programme admitted the first cohort of 30 Fellows in Kenya on May 17 and they have been attending virtual classes since, interacting with peers and mentors, and picking up essential skills that will set them up for further success in their careers in food systems leadership.

As the programme enters the second phase where Fellows will work with coaches and mentors on scaling a project of their choice, we spoke to Fellowship Dean Eunice Khaguli for more insight into what has been a whirlwind experience.

Dr. Erick Ogello monitoring the algal growth dynamics and parameters of larval fish in the laboratory.

What are the highlights of the programme?

So far, three things: Fellows, faculty and content. I love seeing the fellows in action. Yes, we selected them, but it is special seeing them in session and out working in food systems. Two of our fellows, Janet Ngombalu and Lilian Wangui, contributed to the recently concluded United Nations Food Systems pre-Summit as panelists at the Kenya National Dialogue for Policy Makers themed: "Creating an enabling environment for sustainable Food Systems". Two others, Sieka Gatabaki and Sarah Wacheke, lent their expertise as judges for a competition aimed at recognising and nurturing food systems innovations. Their commitment, knowledge and passion validates the Food System’s Leadership Programme ten-fold. As for the faculty and content, we have gone out of our way to make sure that the best-in-class leadership and thematic experts are delivering the inaugural programme. We have set a high bar in terms of quality in the delivery and context- driven curriculum. This is a virtual programme and considerable effort has been made to ensure a variety of digital tools and in-session activities are used to break monotony and enhance learning.

You have interacted with the Fellows more than anyone else and there are things that made you proud. Tell us about them ....

I am proud of how motivated the Fellows are to transform food systems. We are almost at the halfway point and already they are actively utilising learnings from the sessions and peer interactions in their everyday work as food systems leaders. Just recently, I attended a regional webinar where our agri-finance fellow Janet Ngombalu spoke on ‘Leveraging on Digital Innovation to Improve Resilience of Agricultural Cooperatives in Times of Crisis’.

Dr. Erick Ogello while demonstrating to fish farmers the low-cost live food production technologies to improve aquaculture at the Kenya Marine & Fisheries research Institute (KMFRI), Kegati Station.

What are the next steps? Tell us what that means and entails.

Exciting times abound. We are wrapping up stage one, aptly named Systems Insight, which involves a series of deep dive sessions in each impact area – horticulture, aquaculture and agri-finance. Stage two is themed as ‘Systems Action’, and will have the Fellows working with technical mentors and coaches on what it takes to actualise their visions of transformed food systems.

What has been your experience?

As Dean of the Food Systems Leadership Programme and as Implementation Lead- Kenya of the African Food Fellowship, I have been privileged to witness and actively participate in bringing the Fellowship to life. This time last year we were coming from an intense stakeholder enquiry and validation interactive at the virtual 2020 African Green Revolution Forum. Now look at us! Our vision to be in 30 countries across Africa in 10 years seems achievable. The Fellowship is growing; it is no longer an idea. It is active in Kenya and heading to Rwanda; it is now a collective movement to transform food systems through leadership, one cohort at a time.