Entries by Stella Odhiambo

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27 Kenyan food systems leaders complete the final stages of prestigious Fellowship

27 Kenyan food systems leaders complete the final stages of prestigious Fellowship

Stella Odhiambo

Stella Odhiambo

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“We did it!” beamed proud Aquaculture Fellow Proscovia Alando, one of 27 Fellows in the inaugural African Food Fellowship cohort from Kenya who added yet another feather to their cap on April 1, 2022. They proudly received certificates for successfully completing Stages 2 and 3 of the Food Systems Leadership Programme.

The Fellows, who are renowned in their respective fields, were grouped into three focus areas: Horticulture, Aquaculture, and Agri-finance. They graduated from the “Systems Action” and “Sharing and Reflection” stages of the programme, which served as an incubator for testing, refining, and practical application of their ideas.

It was an engaging, activity-packed day that was held in Nairobi’s Social House and attended by the Fellowship’s faculty, technical mentors from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Wasafiri, and delighted coaches. For the fellows who attended (and for the few who joined in virtually), the excitement of meeting their counterparts, some for the first time in person, was palpable.

African Food Fellowship ceremony
Agri-Finance Fellow Janet Ngombalu receives her certificate from the Dean.

After going through the rigorous 10-month Food Systems Leadership Programme, our food systems are in good, capable hands. For the Fellows this proud moment marks the beginning of a lifelong leadership journey towards more inclusive, sustainable, and healthy food systems for our continent. A challenge they now feel empowered to take on.

For us too, it shows encouraging headway with our aim to help deliver progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025 and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area.

Echoing the words of Fellowship Implementation Lead and proud Dean of the African Food Fellowship, Eunice Khaguli, “we’re building a movement”. We couldn’t agree more.

Have a peek at more photos of the Fellows and follow us to keep up with what’s next for the Fellows and other Fellowship-related news.

Hongera once again. Congratulations!

Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting initiated this fellowship to help deliver progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025 and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area. The initiative enjoys support from the IKEA Foundation.

Read more Fellowship related blogs

Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash

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Alex Rees is Wasafiri’s new Managing Director

Alex Rees is Wasafiri’s new Managing Director

Alex Rees became Wasafiri’s new Managing Director on April 1, 2022. He sat down with Communications Officer Stella Odhiambo to discuss his new role and what he’s most (and least) looking forward to.

In one sentence, what is your one new responsibility as MD that you did not have as Food Systems and Inclusive Growth portfolio lead?

Wow, well I’m very excited to be leading such a wonderful, innovative and values-driven organisation and of course, playing an MD role for the first time!

What’s the most exciting aspect about becoming MD of Wasafiri?

There are many exciting aspects of becoming MD of Wasafiri, and let me share two…

The first is that it allows me to continue to heed my father’s advice from when I was setting out in my career: ‘…seek out the most effective people who are fun to work with – and go work with them’.

Another is that over five years I’ve seen just how amazing Wasafiri is from the inside, not just in the accomplishments it has achieved typically in very complex areas where we work like countering violent extremism on the coast of Kenya and helping food systems evolve through support to small food businesses – but also in how we work in the world. I’m consistently impressed by how Wasafiri manages to punch above its weight – in part because we build relationships for the long term. I intend to continue this trajectory.

What’s most daunting?

Good question, I think the most daunting aspect is filling the shoes of the wonderful Kate Simpson who has done a fantastic job over the past four years in enabling our operating system, culture, systems approach and impact to really take off.

I’m delighted she will be around in the months and years ahead to offer sage advice. She now leads our new Wasafiri Institute as we create new ways to help systems leaders have even more impact with the challenges they are facing. You’ll hear about this in 2022!

What’s your vision for the future of Wasafiri as we launch Wasafiri 3.0?

My vision for Wasafiri is that we accelerate how we support diverse systems leaders to better grapple with some of the world’s toughest problems from local communities to global gatherings in the areas of violent extremism, conflict, climate change, loss of nature, food systems and reducing poverty.

I believe that Wasafiri can play a leading role, both in bringing systems leadership into focus for more people and critically, helping people develop their systems leadership in day-to-day decisions so that it is used to improve lives and the environment.

Anchoring collaborations that empower individuals and groups to make different decisions, particularly if disadvantaged, is what truly inspires me.

I’m very excited about the next year or two with Wasafiri looking to advance three areas:

  1. Establish our Wasafiri Institute with firm foundations so it can thrive in years to come
  2. Grow and diversify our work stabilising conflict settings and transforming food systems
  3. Making a meaningful contribution in tackling climate change and encouraging nature to rebound

 

Connected to these, I’d say we intend to make strides in innovating at the nexus between conflict, food and climate. These issues typically affect people and our environment together and I’m confident there is more we can do to tackle these issues in a joined-up manner.

What management style or approach do you plan to take as MD?

I see my job in simple terms: empowering people across the business to make good decisions.

Wasafiri has an effective decentralised ‘domain’ model where individuals lead their areas, taking all relevant decisions. We actively avoid decision-making easing its way up towards the MD. And like my predecessor from whom I’ve learned much, I look forward to nurturing this model and supporting the people best equipped to make good decisions.

How is Wasafiri different?

Let me share two important ways among many that I feel Wasafiri is different:

Firstly, we believe we’ve proven the value of a globally significant and practical systems change approach, which we call Systemcraft, in practical settings with diverse leaders at all levels who wish to make better decisions today and tomorrow for the longer term. Clients, consultants and partners are valuing Systemcraft in support of their strategic and day-to-day decisions.

Secondly, we’ve nurtured a lovely and special culture as staff, with our consultants, and with our partners and clients. We call it ‘Wasafiri spirit’. This feels important to us, and I’m keen we continue to shepherd our culture as we grow.

Get to know the MD

What’s his favourite thing to eat and what was his last search on Google? Get to know Alex some more in this fun video.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

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Good Food hub leads discourse supporting small food businesses to advance decent work and living incomes and wages

Good Food hub leads discourse supporting small food businesses to advance decent work and living incomes and wages

The Decent Work and Living Incomes and Wages (DWLIW) Coalition is working to improve conditions that will positively impact up to 1.5 billion people working in food systems across the world – from pastoralists to small businesses, to food preparers.

The urgency of this ambitious goal is driven largely by the impacts of Covid-19 over the past two years, which brought forward the essentiality of such workers to our day-to-day lives.

With two-thirds of the extreme poor engaged in agriculture, a sector in which more than 90 percent of employment is informal, SMEs play a critical role in strengthening the incomes and wages of food value chain workers across the world.

On March 23, 2022, the Good Food Hub hosted a dialogue with the DWLIW Coalition and small businesses. The dialogue brought food entrepreneurs in direct conversation with representatives from international organisations like ILO, IFAD, and WBCSD, to highlight how small businesses are advancing decent work in their specific value chains, as well as the constraints they face in expanding this impact.

Three key topics discussed included:

  1. Prioritizing women accelerates systems change.
  2. Digital tools can accelerate decent work, and they can also exacerbate the digital divide.
  3. A holistic supply chain approach, with producers/those most vulnerable at the centre, is needed.

Prioritizing women accelerates systems change

Alejandro of Indiegrow (Colombia) and Lastiana of Aliet Green (Indonesia) both shared about the specific challenges women face in accessing decent work.

Lastiana shared her personal journey facing discrimination in Indonesia as a woman starting an innovative business. Indiegrow works to increase women’s decision-making power in the coffee value chain, so they can have greater agency in their income earned and overall role in the sector.

As both businesses prioritize improving women’s livelihoods in their business operations, both have seen the rapid knock-on effects.

Digital tools can accelerate decent work, and they can also exacerbate the digital divide

Digital tools, like e-commerce and logistics platforms, can improve the efficiency of value chains, with the potential to bring more value back to the producer.

Hemense of AFEX Commodities (Nigeria) shared how their business includes digital platforms as one way of improving the wider infrastructure of Nigeria to increase farmer returns. However, they also employ non-digital strategies to reach areas where internet connection is limited.

In addition to internet access as a barrier, many small businesses, producers, and other food workers are simply too fatigued to learn new technologies, so accessing digital resources can be a barrier.

A holistic supply chain approach, with producers/those most vulnerable at the centre, is needed

Decent work and living incomes and wages is an issue that impacts the entire supply chain, and it requires transparency across the supply chain to improve.

The entrepreneurs called for restructuring supply chains in a way that allows producers and other vulnerable groups in supply chains to capture more value. The DWLIW Coalition is bringing together the broader infrastructure to improve how the entire food economy is run.

This dialogue brought together champions for living wages working at different levels of the food system in conversation, and the Coalition is eager to continue surfacing these voices to ground-truth their efforts that often operate at a broader policy level, but closely affect small businesses.

This article was first published on the Good Food Hub on March 30, 2022.

Are you making our food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and resilient? Join the Good Food Hub today.

Photo by Omer Faruq Khan from Pexels

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African Food Fellowship at the forefront of Rwanda’s food systems transformation roundtable

African Food Fellowship at the forefront of Rwanda’s food systems transformation roundtable

"Unlocking innovation to transform Rwanda’s food systems"

The Fireside Chat conversation is part of the larger IGNITE Food Systems Challenge which will be taking place at the Kigali Conference Centre on March 25, 2022.

The Challenge, which is a first of its kind, will provide an important platform to pitch to Food Systems experts and win much-needed financial and technical support.

The African Food Fellowship’s Dean Eunice Khaguli together with three Rwanda Fellows Florence Mwashimba, Kelvin Odoobo, and Esther Ndungutse Mukundane are excited to be a part of a roundtable discussion on “Unlocking innovation to transform Rwanda’s food systems”.

The fireside chat will convene key players from the local ecosystem for an open and frank discussion about food systems transformation and how to unlock innovation and systems change thinking in Rwanda.

Meet the speakers

Eunice Khaguli

Dean, African Food Fellowship and Senior Manager Food Systems and Inclusive Growth, Wasafiri Consulting & Institute

Eunice is an international development consultant and seasoned incubator, convenor and evaluator of food systems, private sector development and inclusive growth initiatives in Africa.

Her passion to see Africa’s food system transformation championed by Africans is mirrored in her current work at the African Food Fellowship; AGRF 2021; CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) Biennial Review amplification sessions; UNFSS Small Business Agenda and Generation Africa.

Eunice, a firm believer in collective action, has been at the helm of the African Food Fellowship as its Dean since its inception in 2021. Since then and under her joint leadership, the Fellowship has grown in number from a Kenyan cohort of 27 to an additional Rwanda cohort of 27.

“Rwanda continues to make significant strides at developing a sustainable, healthy, and inclusive food system. As a fellowship we welcome this opportunity to lend our voice, experience, and harness collective intelligence over a fireside chat with our peers!”, says the proud Dean.

Esther Ndungutse Mukundane

Esther Ndungutse Mukundane

Country Director, Aspire Rwanda

Esther is a Sustainable Land Use Fellow and an agriculture expert. In her current role as the Country Director at Aspire Rwanda, she oversees programmes geared towards the improvement of the livelihoods of women and youth.

Her notable achievements include setting up and serving as the first country director of Sustainable Harvest Rwanda, an NGO promoting the inclusion of smallholder women coffee farmers in the entire value chain. She also organised the first “Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda” Conference that attracted senior government officials, retailers, NGOs and roasters from Europe and the US to discuss challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers in the coffee value chain.

Florence Mwashimba

Florence Mwashimba

Fellow, African Food Fellowship| Founder & CEO Kigalifaam and PIMA Zero Waste Shop

Along with Eunice will be Florence Mwashimba. Florence is an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow, entrepreneur and sales and marketing specialist.

She founded Kigalifaam and PIMA Zero Waste Shop, both the first of their kind in Rwanda, to collect, sort and upcycle tonnes of recyclables in the country. She has also worked with large and small businesses as an aggregator to ensure access to affordable food products.

Notable achievements include being recognised as the Social Founder of the Year, 2021 finalist, Rwanda (Founder of the Year Awards – FOYA).

Kelvin Odoobo

Kelvin Odoobo

CEO & Founder of Shambapro

Kelvin is a Food Entrepreneurship Fellow, Agriprenuer and Agribusiness Consultant in East and Southern Africa. He is the founder and CEO of Shambapro Limited, an Agtech start-up that is helping smallholder farmers in Africa access suitable finance without traditional collateral and other value chain services on its digital platform.

His notable achievements include helping The Hive Limited, a Kenyan beekeeping start-up, to scale and expand to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and Malawi.

As the Lead Consultant, he also helped H2O Venture Partners to build Ingabo Plant Health, a Rwandan social enterprise that provides solutions for farmers to reduce crop losses, increase crop yields and increase their incomes, and raise £100,000 seed funding from DFID.

Moving forward

The African Food Fellowship is increasingly being recognised as a voice in the transformation of food systems in Africa and believes that through practical, collaborative, and visionary leadership, ending world hunger on the continent is achievable.

Moving forward, the Fellowship is looking forward to even more opportunities to support as many African start-ups and SMEs as possible to scale up their solutions and contribute to their communities and economy.

Meet the rest of our amazing fellows.

About the African Food Fellowship

The African Food Fellowship is a leadership initiative for inclusive and regenerative food futures on the continent. It targets emerging leaders from the civic, public, and private circles to jointly transform Africa’s food systems and ensure equitable availability and access to healthy and sustainable food for all.

Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting initiated this fellowship to help deliver progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025, and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area.

Photo by Irina Blok on Unsplash

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How public capital can help small businesses make food systems greener and more inclusive – Good Food hub dialogues off to a fantastic start!

How public capital can help small businesses make food systems greener and more inclusive – Good Food hub dialogues off to a fantastic start!

In 2021, the UN Food Systems Summit elevated small business voices to inform the world’s plans to make our food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and resilient. In the same year, Wasafiri launched the Good Food Hub – a hub for small businesses that are doing just that.

Between February 16 and March 30, the Good Food Hub will host a series of dialogues with five UN Food Systems Summit coalitions, asking how they can each integrate and support the transformative potential of pioneering small businesses.

The first of these dialogues was between SMEs and the Public Development Banks Coalition. Wasafiri played a vital role in providing a platform for small food businesses to present their challenges directly to the financial institutions that, in large part, enable them to scale more quickly. At the same time, it is making it possible for these entities to cast a wider reach on food SME’s.

We heard from CEOs of public development banks in Rwanda, Senegal, and Mexico, as well as many pioneering SMEs, such as Siny Simba, CEO of Le Lionceau (Senegal), Javier Van Cauwelaert, CEO of SmartFish (Mexico), Kelvin Odoobo, CEO of Shambapro (Rwanda), and Julien Potron, CEO of Nadjibi (Senegal).

The dialogue highlighted that many public banks and small businesses share in a common endeavour to make our local and global food systems more equitable and sustainable. Yet, too often, conversations about financing can unhelpfully pitch the two at opposite sides of the table. Bankers and entrepreneurs have much to gain from working together on designing financial products that support improvements to our food systems.

Financial solutions are already underway

La Banque Agricole in Senegal is the second bank to ever be accredited by the Green Climate Fund promoting climate finance. Already, they are working with smallholder farmers to finance solar energy solutions, among others.

The Development Bank of Rwanda is developing a Green Bond and is also pivoting its approach to financing agricultural value chains holistically, not only to isolated farmers or end processors.

Lastly, FIRA (Mexico) has a loan guarantee to reduce the burden of high-interest rates for businesses achieving climate positive outcomes.

As small businesses are working every day to address local challenges, these national financial products generate critical opportunities to enable small business solutions to scale more quickly and reach more and more people.

Banks find it expensive to provide finance to individual small-scale producers, and such focus can fail to address financial bottlenecks further along the value chain. SMEs offer economies of scale and specialist knowledge for reaching small-scale producers.

By offering financial products to agri-food SMEs, public banks can economically strengthen small-scale producers and strengthen local supply chains. National policies need strengthening in parallel so that such businesses thrive commercially, and the sector is de-risked.

Banks traditionally view small businesses as risky investments; the rewards of innovation now justify the risk. There is a particular need among emerging markets to have financial products available at the scale-up stage of small businesses. And as the digital economy rapidly advances, digital innovations on both the agricultural value chain and the finance side are enabling much closer supply chain linkages, data, access to credit, and more.

Women and young entrepreneurs often lead the most pioneering food businesses but are not always treated with the equal credibility that they deserve. That’s both unjust and a missed opportunity.

As Javier so aptly stated at the end of the dialogue, we must put money in service of planet, not put the planet in service of money. Discussions like this demonstrate the power of public-private partnerships to develop targeted solutions that collectively drive towards a more green and inclusive future.

Read a little more about what the rest of the Good Food hub UNFSS coalition dialogues are about.

Are you making our food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and resilient? Join the Good Food Hub today.

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Exciting developments in Communications; Stella Odhiambo joins Wasafiri!

Exciting developments in Communications; Stella Odhiambo joins Wasafiri!

Stella shares insights on her new role as Wasafiri’s Communications Officer

What drew me to Wasafiri

The Wasafiri culture and the people! For a while now, I’ve been more intentional about the organisations and clients I partner with. After eight years in media and publishing, as well as freelancing for clients in Kenya’s private sector, it became increasingly important to connect with organisations with values that align with my own. More importantly, to work with those that have good people dedicated to doing good things at the helm.

Right from the get-go, this place gave off all the right vibes and, after meeting a couple of members of the Wasafiri family during the interview process, it felt even more like the right fit for me.

My role at Wasafiri and how the experience has been so far

I’ve joined the team as a part-time Communications Officer – a sort of hybrid consultant. I was brought aboard to help streamline, strengthen and support Wasafiri’s communications which, so far, is a happy learning experience each week.

After just two weeks on the job (eek!) I was invited to support a Food Systems project that was wrapping up. I was terrified. But with the support of the friendliest and most helpful colleagues anyone could ask for, my confidence grew.

Though I’ve barely scratched the surface of really being in the driver’s seat managing the entire function and leading campaigns, I’m pleased to report that I’m getting into the swing of things.

I’m also reassured to find myself fast becoming the face and point person for all matters comms here at Wasafiri.

What I am looking forward to the most

I’m thrilled to be part of a work-family that is supportive and mindful of one another, even outside the scope of work. A place where Ubuntu and transparency are some of the values woven into the fabric of the organisation – what’s not to love!

The potential for growth is what I most look forward to. Though it’s only a part-time position, I’m keen to prove myself. Adding my little voice to help the organisation tackle complex problems every day will be my small but significant contribution.

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