Wasafiri leads in nature-positive discourse to tackle climate change; WEF “Bold Actions for Food” event

Nikki Feltham
Nikki Feltham

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According to the Davos agenda, sustainably nourishing 9.7 billion people by 2050 requires a transformation in food systems. Unprecedented, concerted action from diverse cross-sector actors is required to evolve production, value chains, market systems, technology, and consumer demand from the local to the global level.

As part of their commitment to a transformation in food systems, the World Economic Forum, the Food Action Alliance, and partners will hold the “Bold Actions for Food” Event on March 15 – 16.

Recognising the need for concerted action from diverse cross-sector actions, this event will bring together leaders from public, private, civil society sectors, and experts who are driving action on innovative examples of systems change initiatives.

As part of this convening, Wasafiri’s Good Food Hub initiative, as well as Clim-Eat, will convene a dialogue with the Nature-Positive Innovation Coalition on March 16. Our very own SME platform that has brought together food actors who are making food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and more resilient.

In part, the event is looking at how to raise ambitions and scale leadership action this year towards bringing Food into the centre of COP27, as well as holding discussions on how to accelerate the small businesses that are bringing nature-positive innovations to millions of farmers.

Wasafiri is giving voice to these food-preneurs and small food business owners who know the importance of making our food systems nature-positive. We want to increase the recognition of small businesses that are innovating solutions that are enhancing natural capital such as water, soil health, and biodiversity.

A wonderful example of this is Good Food Hub member Claire Baker who is the Co-founder and Director of The Toothpick project (Claire is currently a finalist in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech).

Bringing businesses to the forefront of the conversation doesn’t just support them, it inspires us to do more too!

Join this dialogue and discuss how businesses are bringing innovations to farmers and explore how the Nature-Positive Innovation Coalition can support access to the investment, regulatory reform, technology, and commercial partnerships that will take solutions to scale.

Sign up today

This dialogue is sponsored by EIT Food.

Read some of our Climate and Nature related blogs

Photo by Monstera from Pexels


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.


Stage 2 of the African Food Fellowship: A glance at the next phase helping Fellows dive a little deeper

Building on Stage 1 successes

“We need new leaders to drive action and help shape food systems that are healthier and more sustainable for all of us. These Fellows are on a journey together that will continue for a generation, to further realise their country’s and continent’s potential.”

This galvanising call to action by the Director of the African Food Fellowship, Joost Guijt, lies at the heart of the second stage of the programme. It’s an action-oriented phase designed around four themes:

  1. First, Stage 2 provides catalytic support for helping Fellows progress real-world Systems Initiatives – to drive real change within Impact Areas that matter here in Kenya. In doing so, it will build on the concepts developed in Stage 1, serving as an incubator for testing, refining and applying these initiatives for systemic impact.
  2. Second, it continues to build the capacity of Fellows for leading systems-change through a carefully tailored blend of inspiration, coaching and mentoring around real-world issues and initiatives.
  3. Third, from this starting point, the stage will build on and strengthen the networks and relationships established in Stage 1. It will also bring in new Fellows from adjacent cohorts, expanding connections across countries and food systems.
  4. And finally, the stage is designed to generate rich insight into how change actually happens within food systems, helping the programme adapt and evolve as it scales into the future.

Stage 2 is all about helping Fellows dive more deeply into the challenges and opportunities that matter to them, and helping them access all the brilliant ideas and insights that their peers have to offer.

This is what’s working for the Fellows

Horticulture Fellow Winnie Yegon said her involvement has gone beyond food systems; “It has made me a better leader and gone beyond that to help shape me as a person as well. It has not just been about professional growth, it has been a personal journey too,” she said.

For Agri-finance Fellows Grace Njoroge and Sieka Gatabaki, the monthly Inspiration Sessions have been a gamechanger. These one-hour sessions are designed to expand networks, increase skills and build knowledge. They are delivered by industry experts and food systems leaders, as a mix of online skills masterclasses, industry deep-dives and leadership presentations.

In addition, each team is provided four hours per month of flexible, online support by dedicated Technical Mentors, designed to provide ready access to relevant technical and industry expertise and networks in order to progress Systems Initiatives.

The Fellows also benefit from online coaching sessions tailored to help teams progress their Systems Initiatives and to deepen the capacity for systems leadership. Delivered virtually by a cadre of Systems Leadership Coaches, they appear to have added considerable value to Fellows; “When we sat down to talk about solutions, all these different ideas came up from different people with different perspectives. I will definitely be replicating this at my place of work,” said Aquaculture Fellow, Seika.

“I realised that we have similar issues but different ways of approaching them, and different perspectives. People were able to open up because it was a safe space,” said Horticulture Fellow Grace.

Looking ahead, Fellows will be presenting the outcomes from their Systems Initiatives to an external panel of advanced food systems leaders in late March. The event will serve as a graduation for the Fellows into the inaugural Kenyan Food Fellowship; laying vital seeds for a movement of food systems game-changers.

Read more Fellowship-related blogs

Photo by Blue Ox Studio from Pexels


Could there be good news for meeting the Mighty Malabo Goals?

The third Biennial Review Report of the African Union on the Implementation of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods is coming. And it could be encouraging.

The report on agricultural transformation will land for public consumption after the African Union Summit on 5th/6th February 2022. It will convey a complex but fundamental picture of progress among nations in the fight against hunger and raising living standards across the continent. It’s a report we can all understand and make use of.

Does it really matter to me?

All too often in Africa, those working in government, regional economic communities, the international development sector and partners, work in silos. Heads are down and focused on delivering on their individual day-to-day but that doesn’t always satisfy the soul.

We all too rarely lift our heads to see the bigger picture from all the hard work that’s gone in. There’s always lots of talk about action, but the proof of the pudding is always in the eating… not the cooking.

The ‘Biennial Review’, as it is known in familiar circles, will show progress at a continental scale and in each country. It is based on the latest data from each nation.

The authoritative report gives insight into powerful trends and is provided by governments for governments to take action through mutual accountability.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Yes, perhaps too good to be true.

How influential will it be?

The nations of Africa and their regional economic communities are coalescing behind the analysis of impact providing the most authoritative view that exists on ending hunger, reducing poverty, improving nutrition, enhancing social protection, and sustaining good land management.

It measures progress in almost 50 areas from circa 50 countries. These issues are often looked at separately, yet we know they must be intertwined to raise prosperity and resilience in the long run.

The report has been approved by a Committee of Ministers as it makes its way for review and adoption by Heads of State and Governments at the African Union Summit in early February.

In the past, Africa and the world have taken only mild notice. This is a travesty given all the work put into compiling it, and what it could mean for us all if used well.

Because it embodies a powder keg of evidence on what is and what isn’t working in Africa – we seek an explosion of its use in national and regional settings. Parliamentarians, NGOs, farmer organisations, farmers, and citizens are essential to encourage this to happen.

Progress relies on multiple actors sharing their learning on what seems to be working and coordinating in favour of a collective evidence-based approach, all anchored by governments while letting the private sector do what it does best.

Should we be excited?

Is this Biennial Review report news? I think it is. Journalists will be briefed at a civil society event on 2nd February.

The report and its findings are embargoed and will be available after 6th February along with some snazzy new communications tools. But there are whispers that it might bring some good news about progress in at least some nations against the mighty goals established in Malabo in 2014, which include wiping hunger off the map of Africa by 2025.

If true, this would be the good news needed to give the recovery from Covid-19 a spring in its step.

Fancy getting involved?

Stay tuned as we learn more. Please get in touch with Ruthpearl Ng’ang’a if you’d like to get involved in making sure this wonderful data and reporting system spreads its wings and strengthens the hands of governments, parliaments, development partners, and civil society to press for the policies and actions that can secure greater progress in future.

Let’s lift our heads and connect with this ‘bigger picture’ to see where we are now and where we are going before we double down on our day-to-day tasks. It is, after all, good for the soul.


The African Food Fellowship welcomes 30 new Fellows in Rwanda!

Murakaza neza! Karibuni! Welcome!

I would like to extend a warm welcome and hearty congratulations to the 30 Rwanda fellows who have this month joined the African Food Fellowship. We begin our journey with reflection and celebration of the many invaluable contributions you continue to make in your impact areas. We are look forward to collaborating with you to transform Rwanda food system up to and beyond the SDGs! And to share these learings across geographies. Indeed, with Rwanda on board our pan African vision is now taking shape. I look forward to building the fellowship with you all.

Murakoze cyane! Asanteni! Thank you very much!

Eunice Khaguli
Dean, African Food Fellowship

I am ecstatic! On November 1st, 2021, the African Food Fellowship welcomed 30 new Fellows in Rwanda to its world-class Food Systems Leadership Programme!1

This was a merit-based selection in recognition of their outstanding contributions towards making Rwanda’s food systems sustainable and inclusive.

The 30 Fellows include 12 access to nutritious food experts, nine sustainable land use and labour specialists and nine food entrepreneurship experts.

The newly selected 30 fellow cohort is geographically spread across all four provinces and Kigali city. Of those selected, 47% are women, 53% male, with an average age of 36.

Meet our new Fellows

Access to nutritious food

Aime Kayumba, Rural Development Initiative (RDI)
Aimée Kaze Ange, Kaze’s Kitchen
Christella Mukakalisa, KOPERATIVE CODIKA
Darius Bazimya, Health Relief and Development Organisation
Eugene Nzaramba, Benelliot Farming Company Ltd
Florence Mwashimba, Kigali Farmers´ And Artisans´ Market
Jean Baptiste Ndahetuye, University of Rwanda
Jean Yves Ntimugura, Caritas Rwanda
Joan Mutoni, Alight Rwanda
Josine Umuhire Munyentwali, Rwanda Agriculture and animal resources Board (RAB)
Liliane Mutuyimana, Kigali Farms ltd
Theogene Dusingizimana, University of Rwanda

Food Entrepreneurship

Epiphanie Karekezi, Eastern Africa Grain Council
Herve Tuyishime, Paniel Meat Processing Ltd
Janvier Ahimanishyize, SNV
Kate Ojungo, Kenya Seed Company Rwanda Ltd
Kelvin Odoobo, Shambapro Ltd
Paula Mutesi, One Acre Fund
Thacien Munyamahame, Three Mountains Learning Advisors
Valentine Uwase, Land O’Lakes Venture37

Sustainable Land Use

Alexis Rutagengwa, Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority
Assumpta Uzamukunda, HortInvest project (WUR)
Esther Ndungutse Mukundane, ASPIRE Rwanda
Francois Hakorimana, Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network)
Françoise Umarishavu, Assistance in Sustainable Agriculture and Certification (ASAC)
Innocent Bisangwa, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources
Juvenal Kabagambe, Urban and rural farming development company (U.R.F.D.C) Ltd
Daniel Mutiganda, One Acre Fund
Petronille Dusingizimana, IFPRI

Our new Fellows of the African Food Fellowship join a community of now 57 leading minds that are actively transforming Kenya and Rwanda food systems.

Once a vision, now a reality! The African Food Fellowship is growing!

1The food systems leadership programme is a flagship programme of the African Food Fellowship, an initiative facilitated by the Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting & Institute, with support from IKEA Foundation.

Learn more by subscribing to our fellowship social media pages:

Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash


African Food System Leadership is alive and well; celebration as the African Food Fellowship announces its inaugural graduates!

On 1 October 2021, 27 fellows graduated from Stage 1 of the Food Systems Leadership Programme1 – Kenya! And so across Wasafiri’s virtual and literal corridors, there was a jubilant celebration; we have our pathfinders!

As I reflect on the last six months as implementation lead and Dean at the African Food Fellowship1, I smile. These, and soon another 30 Rwandese fellows, are stepping forward to claim ownership and collectively champion food systems transformation!

Why is this exciting or different? The focus here is on leadership as a pathway to food system transformation. Yes, leadership. The ability to influence and guide. And not just any form of leadership, but African Leadership.

As Dean, I can confidently state that we are contributing to ongoing systemic efforts to change the narrative around African Leadership. We are harnessing the collective intelligence of African food system leaders with the ability to influence and guide by shaping agendas, setting priorities for investments, policy, and action.

As an African food system actor, I candidly acknowledge that this recognition is long overdue.

A significant shift in Africa’s food systems socio-economic status presents us with an unprecedented opportunity. Covid-19 and other food system shocks have underscored the eminent need for African leadership to navigate complex contextual problems at country and continental levels.

As a fellowship, we are stepping forward to present cohorts of food system leaders, actively shaping their speciality impact areas and collectively driven by a systems transformation agenda.

Having completed a highly interactive 5-month systems leadership training, our trailblazers are now embarking on another 5-month Systems Action phase (Stage 2), designed to provide catalytic support for progressing Systems Initiatives and to deepen the Fellow’s capacity for leading systems-change through inspiration, coaching, and technical mentoring.

And with that, it is with immense pleasure that I invite you to Meet our Fellows, a shining example of our vision to jointly transform Africa’s food systems through collective leadership.

Agri-Finance and Digital

Anthony Makona – Kilimo Trust
Grace L. N. Njoroge – GSMA Mobile For Development
Janet Ngombalu – Eastern Africa Grain Council
Lillian Ndungu – Regional Centre For Mapping Of Resources For Development
Monica Githige – Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition
Richard Midikira – Aceli Africa
Serah Waceke – Agricultural Finance Corporation
Sieka Gatabaki – Agrifin


Alex Akidiva Amuyumzu – MEST
Charles Kanyuguto – Nyeri County Fish Farmers Cooperative Society
Dave Okech Okech – Cage Fish Farmers Association Of Kenya
Erick Ogello (PhD) – Maseno University
Fredrick Juma – Hydro Victoria Fish Hatchery Farm
Kristian Larsen – Nutriento
Proscovia Alando – Samaky Hub And Ressect
Ruth Lewo Mwarabu – Aquaculture Business Development Programme
Safeena Musa – Kenya Marine And Fisheries Research Institute
Justus Wanjala – Fisheries Meru County


Charles Muteithia – Kagure Syngenta
Elizabeth Gathogo – World Wildlife Fund
Leah Mwaura – SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
Rashid Boru – County Government Of Isiolo
Kweyu Suleiman – Agrokenya
Tele Boit – Wageningen University & Research
Tom Ogweno – Tradin Organic
Waithera Ng’ang’a
Winnie Yegon – Food And Agriculture Organization

What an honour to sit at the table and be surrounded by African Food Systems Leaders who are actively shaping their speciality impact areas (aquaculture, agri-finance and horticulture) and are collectively driven by a systems transformation agenda. Hongera!

1The food systems leadership programme is a flagship programme of the African Food Fellowship, an initiative facilitated by the Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting & Institute, with support from IKEA Foundation.

Learn more by subscribing to our fellowship social media pages:

Photo by Nicolas Tissot on Unsplash


Small is powerful! (when it comes to changing food systems)

Change is imperative... but how?

I warmly welcome the near unity in voices across the world, calling for our food systems to better serve people and the planet. This will be the major cry too, at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York this month. But two important questions to consider are: ‘How to achieve this?’ and ‘What more do we need to know?’

Like many organisations, Wasafiri is actively seeking ways to help catalyse transformational shifts in food systems. Our desired outcome is simple: we want healthier and more sustainable foods to be grown and eaten everywhere.

One means of transforming the food supply is to help those who run micro and small food enterprises to flourish. After all, they produce most of the healthy, sustainable, local foods for local markets. These are often used by low-income consumers.

Kenya is a case in point; as a country with strong market activity and therefore opportunity for entrepreneurial people, the country provides an important barometer for what is possible.

But surely, these tiny businesses are too small to make a difference? Ants or termites provide a useful analogy. Individually their impact is minute as they go about their work – but taken collectively a colony of ants or brood of termites can create dramatic physical change in the environment. Collective action counts. Small can be powerful when harnessed.

Small businesses count

Let’s get a bit more specific and evidence-based. Harnessing the domination of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is essential for meaningful change of national food systems in Africa.

MSMEs constitute the key part of the food environment that enables or constrains consumers’ access to food. They are big players in the production, processing, and retailing of fruits and vegetables, animal-source foods, and cereals and legumes in Africa1. They play an essential role in food supply chains and in ensuring food and nutrition security of most low-and middle-income countries (LMICs)2.

In Kenya, MSMEs in the agri-food sector play a key role in enhancing food and nutrition security and constitute a significant part of the economy including in urban areas3.

A 2016 MSME survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics found that 96% of the surveyed enterprises were microenterprises. In addition, the Kenya Integrated Household Baseline Survey (KIHBS) 2015/2016 data indicates that about 96% of healthy and sustainable foods consumed by households was sourced from micro and small enterprise – a combination of open-air market traders, general shops, kiosks, specialized shops, other households, and roadside or hawkers.

The point is hopefully clear: many food businesses are small and taken together, small counts!

Do we know how to help small food businesses?

The barrier to making better progress is that the role and dynamics of micro and small enterprises within the food system in Kenya are not well understood, and this is particularly true when it comes to a fundamental question: how can we support micro and small businesses produce healthier and more sustainable foods at a large enough scale that is accessible and affordable to mostly low-income Kenyan consumers?

The answer is no, not yet.

Answering this question is an important challenge that Wasafiri is responding to in Kenya. We are working together with Village Enterprise and Shack Dwellers International on a two-year research programme that started in April 2021. We are supported in this by the IDRC – who, in turn, is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Canadian Government.

The focus is how to better shape an ecosystem of programmes, policies and interventions that can nudge small businesses to contribute towards greater volumes of good quality, nutritious foods to meet demand in the market.

Generating the knowledge that is needed

While managing COVID-19 risks we are excited to start this research with micro and small business owners in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, in September 2021. Our efforts will evolve over time to empower micro and small business leaders and those that establish the policy environment for such businesses in three counties: West Pokot, Bungoma and Nairobi.

The findings will inform thinking locally, nationally and regionally and we are rallying stakeholders who may be interested to engage with us on this journey. So, feel free to get in touch: [email protected] or [email protected].

This research will not be ready for the UN Food Systems Summit on 23 September 2021, so stakeholders must work with what is available. Policymakers and influencers can take account of world-class work by Wasafiri in July 2021, on behalf of the UN Food Systems Summit Secretariat, that engaged and sought the voices of small businesses from 137 countries in how to help them scale up their wonderful efforts to transform our food systems.

Led by my fabulous colleague Ian Randall with a wonderful team – see A Small Business Agenda and here is his blog.

  1. Demmler, 2020
  2. Nordhagen et al., 2021
  3. Owuor, 2020; Githiri et al., 2016

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels


Small businesses are the quiet revolutionaries needed by the UN Food Systems Summit

Our food systems must become more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and resilient. This is the imperative set by the United Nations Food Systems Summit taking place on 23 September 2021.

Food systems touch every aspect of human existence, affecting the health of our bodies, our environment, our economies, and our cultures. Every day, each person on the planet plays their part in nourishing humanity; and, within decades, we must feed nine billion people.

This endeavour is a miracle of human collaboration, and yet, in critical ways, we are failing. Too many are underfed, overfed or poorly fed. We are degrading vital natural capital and biodiversity. We are ill-prepared for shocks such as pandemics and a changing climate.

Poverty is a daily burden for so many who labour to provide our food. Over the last year, the Summit process has brought the world together to ask how we must collectively act to transform the way we produce, consume and think about food.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) constitute at least half the food system. Each country is different, but SMEs usually make up over 90% of businesses in the agri-food sector, create half the sector’s economic value, provide more than half its jobs, and handle more than half the food consumed. They are incredibly diverse, from bakeries to farm suppliers, coffee co-ops to digital start-ups. Some will grow exponentially to become renowned giants, but the vast majority are hidden heroes labouring to provide food from their niche in the food system.

SMEs must be at the heart of efforts to provide “Good Food for All”. Lift the lid on the food system, and SMEs are everywhere. Sector transformation is simply unimaginable without them. At the centre of SMEs are entrepreneurs, who together make billions of decisions that shape the future of food.

They are pioneers, innovators, and influencers. On a daily basis, they acutely feel the global tensions: how do we provide our end-consumers with affordable food, whilst ensuring it is nutritious, paying fair wages, maintaining our natural capital, and being ready for shocks?

On behalf of the United Nations, Wasafiri was contracted to ensure the needs and potential of SMEs were brought into the Summit process. We asked thousands of food SMEs and their expert supporters, “How to boost the role of SMEs in providing good food for all?” Their response, with input from 137 countries, was inspiring and compelling.

Food SMEs revealed themselves as quiet revolutionaries, working tirelessly to transform food systems in every corner of the planet. Listening carefully, we heard a shared vision for rebalanced food systems that sustain past efficiency gains, whilst no longer compromising nutrition, natural capital, equity, and resilience. Their stories tell of their collective commitment to drive positive change in multiple ways:

  • Integrating markets to reduce poverty and hunger.
    Creating opportunities that improve equity.
  • Innovating and scaling solutions for nutrition and sustainability.
  • Elevating resilience to shocks, through embedded yet agile business models.
  • Influencing to passionately shape the future of food.

We ran the Summit’s competition to showcase the “Best 50 Small Businesses providing Good Food for All”. Watch this winners’ video to get inspired by the passionate, values-driven, innovative entrepreneurs in the ascendency.

SMEs are ready to reshape our food systems for the better, but this is a formidable challenge. They will only fulfil their potential when support systems, market incentives, power dynamics, and cultural norms shift in their favour. The ask by SMEs is for cross-sector actors to create conditions for purpose-driven SMEs to flourish.

Every country and value chain is different, and so are the constraints they present to SMEs. Hence, SMEs need the Food System Summit to catalyse action by coalitions working at national-level or within specific value chains. Listening to the SMEs in each discrete context will highlight priority actions to boost their contribution as change agents. Three pathways need considering when integrating food SMEs into the prioritisation, design and governance of efforts to transform food systems.

Pathway 1: Create a business ecosystem in which food SMEs thrive

The food sector is often burdensome for SMEs. Running a food SME is hard, and market elements are frequently wrong-sized for them. When food entrepreneurs have a business environment that gives them a fair chance to compete in the market, they then thrive to the benefit of consumers, producers, communities, nature, and investors.

Opportunities to act:

  • Reduce the cost of doing business by improving physical and digital infrastructure, regulations, and the rule of law.
  • Improve access to finance.
  • Ease SME graduation from the informal to the formal sector.
  • Leverage the power of large market actors.
  • Target business support at food SMEs.

Pathway 2: Incentivise businesses to provide “Good Food for All”

The best businesses are not always the most competitive, so they struggle to scale up. Most consumers currently prioritise price above all other factors, and good businesses cannot out-compete those who deliver their products whilst externalising their cost to public health, natural capital, or social equity. The food system will continue to fail us until these incentives change.

Opportunities to act:

  • Ensure prices reflect the true cost of food, while safeguarding affordability.
  • Create consumer demand for “good food”.
  • Fast-track innovative entrepreneurs.

Pathway 3: Increase the power of food SMEs within sector planning

Small businesses have quiet and isolated voices. Compared to government or large businesses, they are relatively underpowered in their ability to collectively influence decision-making, regulations, resource allocation, and cultural values within food systems. Only once power dynamics change can we expect to make progress on rebalancing food systems in favour of the SMEs pioneering good food for all.

Opportunities to act:

  • Elevate the voice of SMEs.
  • Structure SMEs into dynamic networks.
  • Plan and invest according to context-specific priorities.

These messages were presented by Wasafiri in the report “A Small Business Agenda” and in a session at the Pre-Summit that is available to watch.

The Summit convenes imminently. UN member states will share plans to forge better food systems. They are far more likely to achieve their worthy goals if they work in partnership with the small businesses that are already revolutionising our food day-in-day-out.


Wasafiri are thrilled to have 30 inspiring and talented Kenyan Fellows embark on a systems leadership journey as they focus on transforming food systems in Kenya. They are the first cohort of many to come in……

The Fellowship brings together 30 passionate food systems leaders who make up the inaugural cohort of the African Food Systems Leadership Programme.
This 10-month Fellowship is the first of its