Proscovia Alando is an Aquaculture Fellow at the African Food Fellowship. She describes herself as a social entrepreneur keen on transforming how food is produced and consumed. She believes food can be farmed sustainably to meet the needs of the global population while ensuring zero wastage and environmental conservation. In this interview, she talks about her passion for food systems and what she has learnt in the last nine months.
2021 was a big year of growth for your two startups, Ressect and Samaky Hub. What have you achieved with them?
In 2021, Ressect was shortlisted for the Food Systems Game Changers Lab (FSGCL), an initiative by The Rockefeller Foundation and other stakeholders, as one of the enterprises with the potential to transform food systems. Ressect farms black soldier fly as an alternative source of protein in animal feed formulation. Cohort 4 brings together solutions from Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. This has been a great networking and learning opportunity as I get to see what other solutions are out there for upcycling different types of organic waste. I have realised issues we face in Kenya are also faced elsewhere and coming together ensures we explore better solutions while learning from each other’s mistakes. We are working to establish a centre of excellence for upcycling food and material.
Last month, Samaky Hub got into the shortlisting process for the Total Energies Startupper Challenge of the Year that targets African entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 running startups with a positive impact on their communities and the planet. We are hoping to emerge as one of ths successful candidates after the shortlisting stage. Samaky Hub offers consultancy services on better fish production methods, good feeding practices, quality feeds and cost management to farmers and other stakeholders in aquaculture sector. Through Samaky Hub, my peers and I at the African Food Fellowship want to influence aquaculture policies in Kenya to be sustainable and inclusive, especially for women and youth.
I also had a golden opportunity to be featured in an international magazine – The Fish Site – which I highly regard and have always looked up to. By sharing my journey as a woman and youth in the aquaculture industry, I hope to inspire others facing similar challenges.
What big plans do you have for Ressect and Samaky Hub in the next five years and how has the Fellowship influenced these?
We aim to be a major player in the aquaculture industry in East Africa championing sustainable production and consumption. Through Ressect and Samaky Hub, we are ditching traditional linear food production model (input > product > waste) to a circular model (input > product > waste > input), thus closing the loop, minimising losses, lowering production costs, creating jobs while providing healthy and affordable food free of chemicals. Through the Fellowship, my thinking has shifted from value chain to reflecting on how different food sectors interact, and affect each other, and other aspects outside the food sector. I have created a network of knowledgeable and experienced individuals who have tried and tested different approaches and taken valuable lessons on what worked and what did not. This has affirmed the need for stakeholder engagement in driving change. We aim to take this approach in our companies to educate others on how and why they can and should consider a circular economy approach in food production and consumption.
What drives your passion for aquaculture and food systems? Why is this work important to you?
I am driven by the need to provide healthy and affordable food in a clean and sustainable environment. I want to establish an aquaculture enterprise that conserves the environment, creates employment and provides affordable nutrition especially at such a time when there is under-nutrition in Kenya.
There are health benefits of fish consumption especially for child-bearing women. Educating women on these benefits gives them an opportunity to make empowered decisions for their health and that of their unborn children.
Empowered women and youth can create positive change and I want to lead by example while reducing any negative environmental impacts. Establishing the enterprise through a circular system by integrating black soldier fly insects, crops and bio-fertilizer is important in ensuring we achieve our goals.
Looking back at your career, is there anything you would do different?
I would have more patience. There was I time I was frustrated because I was putting time and effort in my work and didn’t see results as quickly as I had hoped. I didn’t realise that ‘when you plant a seed you have to bury it first’. Now I understand that just because I might not have reached my goals yet doesn’t mean my actions were not sufficient.
Why is it important for women to take up leadership in food systems, especially in aquaculture?
They play a unique role in the food systems but most of their labour usually goes unpaid and they sometimes have to work extra to get the same kind of recognition and/or compensation with men. In addition, women act as household managers responsible for making nutrition choices for families. An empowered woman can do more to ensure the health and wellbeing of her family. Through education and communicating the importance of nutrition especially for child bearing women, societies become healthier. With the rapidly increasing global population and the rising demand for food, women in food systems leadership can accelerate food security and environmental protection. When you empower a woman, you empower a community.
You have been a Fellow at the African Food Fellowship for nine months. Why should other young female food systems leaders apply to join the programme?
I am learning new things about myself and how to tackle difficult situations. I have been equipped with tools useful when collaborating with my team and when interacting with stakeholders who may have a different point of view. I have been driven to reflect on my own view of the food sector and how the systems interact. I have met people willing and ready to help, being a young person with a lot to learn. I have had the opportunity to interact with people who have years of experience, wisdom, and expertise. I would encourage young people seeking to be change agents and an exemplary leaders in the agri-food sector or the wider foods systems to consider joining the African Food Fellowship.