Last month in Kisumu, Kenya, Rikolto joined mayors, city officials and global experts to chart a new path for food systems research in Africa. The first in-person meeting, held from 19-23 June, marked a significant milestone in the AfriFOODlinks urban food systems project, an ambitious four-year initiative funded by the European Union and coordinated by ICLEI Africa.
Africa is undergoing an important transition,with its urban population growing rapidly. From an estimated 200 million (31%of Africa's total population) in 1990, it rose to 548 million (43%) in 2018 and is projected to reach 1,489 million (59%) by 2050. This growing urbanisation places cities and their governments at the centre of efforts to address high levels of food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition.
AfriFOODlinks aims to address this transition while promoting climate and environmental sustainability and building social and ecological resilience in more than 65 cities. This initiative brings together over 26 partners from Africa and Europe.
Launched in December 2022, AfriFOODlinks focuses on five African hub cities. Its approach involves promoting sustainable and healthy diets, transforming urban food environments through real-world experiments, promoting inclusive multi-actor governance and accelerating innovative agri-food businesses led by women and young people.
Recognising that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges facing urban centres, AfriFOODlinks places an emphasis on the sharing of knowledge and the development of local solutions that are contextually relevant.
And that's where Rikolto comes in. Rikolto's work revolves around creating sustainable and inclusive food systems that ensure access to healthy and nutritious food without compromising planetary boundaries.
Our interventions target three key dimensions: sustainable production, inclusive markets and enabling environments. Through our Good Food For Cities programme, we pilot and scale innovative, multi-stakeholder solutions in urban food environments and supply chains in 33 cities and territories in 14 countries globally.
Rikolto supports the coordination of AfriFOODlinks in Mbale, Uganda and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and co-leads Work Package 3 on inclusive and circular agribusiness & innovation together with our partner Shona. In Mbale, we work with the Global Consumer Centre (CONSENT), Food Rights Alliance Uganda, Shona and the Mbale Municipality.
"In Mbale, in the first phase of the project, we are coordinating stakeholder engagement activities with local government, schools, development organisations, media, vendors and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We are also supporting baseline research on food governance, food-environment interactions and an assessment of the barriers faced by small-scale agri-food enterprises. Based on these research processes, we are developing an incubation framework for SMEs together with our partner Shona. We desire to see Mbale being a city known globally for its safe and healthy food culture". – Hillary Maket, Rikolto project coordinator in Uganda and WP3 co-lead.
Similarly, in Ouagadougou, we are working with the Department of Prospectivity, Planning and Studies (DPPE) of the city of Ouagadougou, the Urban Economic Development Agency (ADEU), the Food Technology Department of the Institute for Research in Applied Sciences and Technologies (DTA/IRSAT), INADES Formations, the League of Consumers of Burkina (LCB) and the Agency for the Financing and Promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (AFP-PME.
"In Ouagadougou, one of our priorities in this first phase of the project is to identify the obstacles to promoting sustainable and inclusive food governance and to analyse the innovations that need to be piloted, documented and used as evidence and then exchanged within the AfriFOODlinks network. The circular business models we are assessing include innovations that Rikolto has been working on and documenting, such as food waste management practices, food recovery and food redistribution, school gardens and feeding projects, and market upgrades.” – Harouna Maiga, Rikolto project coordinator.
The meeting in Kisumu saw stakeholders commit to addressing the entire food value chain, connecting urban and rural areas. AfriFOODlinks represents a significant milestone in Africa's knowledge sovereignty as one of the largest EU Horizon Grants awarded to an African-led consortium.
In his opening words, Governor of Kisumu,Professor Anyang' Nyong'o, acknowledged: "The future of Africa is urban, and we need to think critically about how to feed our growing populations. We must look at the whole food value chain and the links between urban and rural."
Emphasising the importance of creating and strengthening links between actors in different regions, Kobie Brand, Regional Director of ICLEI Africa, stressed that "Local government has a key role to play in driving global sustainability. ICLEI Africa is delighted to be coordinating such an ambitious project, which seeks to empower local governments, their partners and their citizens by changing the way we do research, make decisions and resource businesses and infrastructure development."
Resourcing and capacity building of city officials and local governments is an essential aspect of transforming urban food systems. AfriFOODlinks will promote inclusive multi-actor governance, equipping public officials with the necessary tools to effectively shape their food systems.
As Paul Currie, Associate Director of Urban Systems at ICLEI Africa, notes: "Cities learn best from each other and, by incorporating local knowledge into policy development, the project aims to empower both citizens and city officials to take more effective action in their cities.”
As part of its efforts, AfriFOODlinks is curating a knowledge repository of urban food systems. The knowledge hub will showcase a variety of resource types, including photo essays, poetry, city strategies and policies, reports, infographics and more. These diverse forms of knowledge and creative storytelling, often overlooked in mainstream research, provide vital information about our experiences of food systems and the foodsystems themselves.
The event also saw delegates commit to a bold plan of action which included support to small businesses and young people.
Under this plan of action, cities and their partners will accelerate the growth of innovative agri-food businesses, led by women and young people. For this, they will launch a youth ambassadors programme among the partner cities to connect young leaders with city decision-makers and channels for making positive change in their cities.
This article is based on a press release first published at AfriFOODlinks.
Editor for Rikolto's version: Selene Casanova - International Communications, Rikolto
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