Nine Kenyan food systems fellows graduate in Addis Ababa

Florence Kariuki, an agriculture and climate finance expert, during the graduation of food systems leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on December 8, 2023. [Zena Eyamo, Standard]

Nine Kenyans are among 77 emerging food systems leaders who graduated from the Center for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) advanced leadership program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The leaders, drawn from the public, private sector and civil society, were awarded with certificates after completing a 16-month collaborative, hands-on, and tailored program for senior and rising leaders in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, AGRA President Agnes Kalibata underscored the critical importance of addressing post-harvest losses in agriculture. She emphasized the need for innovative solutions and strategic interventions to minimize post-harvest losses, a challenge that continues to impede the agricultural sector's growth and resilience across the African continent.

“Fifty per cent of CALA graduates are looking to solve post-harvest losses. If we save some of the food that we lose on the farms, we won’t be saying that Africa has 300 million hungry people. If we work to solve post-harvest losses by 40 per cent, we will be saving a lot on the production side and shift the narrative,” Dr Kalibata, said.

The advanced leadership program, an initiative of AGRA in collaboration with the African Management Institute and USAID’s Policy Link, is designed to empower and nurture the next generation of agricultural leaders.

One of the graduates, Ms Florence Kariuki, an agriculture and climate finance expert from Kenya, described the leadership program as an amazing journey of self-awareness and development as a food systems leader.

“I am completing CALA charged to make a difference, and armed with vital tools for leading and influencing others. Applying this knowledge and practical skills in my everyday engagements has been a true test that the experience was worth it and that this is an effective and unique program,” said Ms Kariuki.

She said the Action Learning Project where delegates worked on a practical solution to a problem in the food systems was the highlight of the leadership program.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone to work with a team from diverse backgrounds to solve a challenge in the food systems, requiring collaboration with stakeholders, the contribution of time, knowledge, and skills and being adaptable to the dynamic nature of food systems,” she said.

This year’s graduating class, just like the 80 from the first cohort last year, was selected from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Participants were competitively picked from over 1,000 applicants and represent the continent’s most dynamic leaders in agriculture, with 45 per cent of the leaders drawn from government agencies across the 8 countries, 26% from the private sector and 29 per cent from civil society.

“As leaders in your respective organisations and fields, you have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in aligning your country’s national priorities to the regional priorities in order to ensure that the transformation of food systems is grounded in the realities of local communities,” said Prof. Jean Jacques Muhinda, Regional Head for East and Southern Africa, AGRA.

The delegates attended both virtual and in-person training events to hone their leadership skills. They participated in learning projects, received on-the-job coaching attending high-profile networking events, such as the African Food Systems Summit, formerly known as AGRF. The program places special emphasis on honing leadership skills that advance environmentally sustainable practices in agriculture, such as agroecology and the management of environmental social systems.