Generation Food: Young entrepreneurs in the driving seat of Arusha’s transformation into a Food Smart City

Generation Food: Young entrepreneurs in the driving seat of Arusha’s transformation into a Food Smart City

Changing an unsustainable and exclusive food system into an innovative, sustainable and inclusive one driven by youth to build a strong and resilient Arusha.
Young entrepreneur proudly showing his stall. Picture by Philippe Leyssens.

Over the coming years, East Africa will have one of the highest rates in the world for rural-urban migration. The growing urban population will continue to depend for their food on family farmers who contribute 75–80% of marketed agricultural produce. At the same time, Tanzanian agriculture contributes more than one quarter of the GDP, provides 85% of exports, and employs about 80% of the workforce. It is therefore critical for broad-based poverty reduction.

Located on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley, Arusha has become a medium sized city expected to serve over 2 million people in the future. Being an important regional economic and touristic hub, the city is facing significant sustainability and public health problems due to ineffective land planning, under-resourced regulatory structures, and food safety challenges.

Challenges

Arusha’s food system is characterised by unsustainable practices and poor inclusion:

  • Food contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables and grains;

  • Poorly organised enterprises, leading to the use of poor-quality inputs and the production of low-quality goods;

  • Adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and efficient irrigation systems are costly and require a high technological level;

  • Climate change leads to erratic rains, droughts and floods;

  • Inadequate storage facilities and the limited use of cold trucks contribute to large post-harvest losses (20-50% of produce);

  • Safe and healthy fruits and vegetables are hard to find, and dietary diversity is low, leading to nutrient deficiencies among children.

But there are even more challenges for youth and innovative ideas:

  • There are high unemployment rates amongst youth and young people struggle to develop innovative and sustainable food businesses because of a lack of agribusiness and entrepreneurship skills and a limited access to resources.

  • It is a challenge to include young people in decision-making about the development of urban food policy and in multi-stakeholder platforms as the Arusha Food Safety Initiative.

  • Sustainable and fair food systems require innovative solutions, creativity and a move away from business as usual, but investing in innovative business ideas can be risky.

Young man carrying pineapples at Arusha market. Picture by Philippe Leyssens

Strategy

To tackle these challenges, this project targets young entrepreneurs in Arusha by setting up a food business incubator, and by supporting young actors to participate constructively in policy discussions that will affect them.

Some examples of specific activities are the following:

  1. Together with our partners and youth representatives, we will learn from and integrate the lessons from Rikolto’s food incubator in Leuven (Belgium). We will also design a gender-sensitive outreach campaign to ensure the inclusion of women in the project and focus our communication on youth.
  2. A 2-week “Generation Food Bootcamp” where participants will develop business skills through action and experimentation guided by agri-food experts.
  3. A 2-day Hackathon on business solutions for a sustainable and fair food system in Arusha. Participants will work in groups on new business ideas on 3-4 themes, as for instance urban farming.
  4. Set up an open regional competition to select food entrepreneurs for the “Generation Food Incubator”. Participants will receive feedback on business plans, coaching and networking opportunities. We will institutionalise the food incubator within Arusha City Council to ensure project sustainability.
  5. Connect young food entrepreneurs to business and food networks and build their capacity of to effectively represent the youth in policy discussions related to Arusha’s food system.

The Youth for Food project runs from April 2020 to September 2021. It will focus on young women and men between 18 and 35 from both rural and urban areas with a strong interest in developing their own business in the food sector, such as young graduates, unemployed youth, and farmers.

We expect to target:

  • 200 participants in the Hackathon
  • 70 young people in the business development training
  • 25 teams or individuals in their business incubation phase.
Young entrepreneurs contributing to a more sustainable and fair food system in Arusha will be supported by this project. Picture by Philippe Leyssens.

Expected results by 2022

  • Youth improve their business, administration and entrepreneurial skills during the “Generation Food Bootcamp” and strengthen their understanding of food systems.
  • Hackathon participants innovate and co-create business solutions.
  • Up to 25 businesses are supported in the incubation phase and contribute to a more sustainable and fair food system in Arusha.
  • At least 20 youth improve their skills on advocacy and public participation, resulting in well-represented youth in food policy discussions in Arusha.
  • The Arusha Youth for Food Incubator is institutionalised within Arusha City Council and the provision of seed funding to promising food entrepreneurs is secured.
  • Young food entrepreneurs are effectively connected to local and international business networks and can connect with peers, mentors, and potential investors.
  • Cities and organisations in Tanzania and in Rikolto’s food smart cities cluster are inspired to set up their own food business incubator for youth.

Long-term expected results

The project has 4 long-term objectives:

  1. Support the development of agri-businesses that deliver sustainable solutions for Arusha’s most pressing food system challenges
  2. Increase employment of young people in Arusha’s region
  3. Increase youth participation in food system decision-making in Arusha
  4. Enable young people to become ambassadors of safe and sustainable food in their networks and raise awareness about safe & sustainable food consumption.

Our ultimate goal is to support the transition towards a sustainable and fair food system in Arusha that increases the accessibility of safe and healthy food to all consumers, generates a fair income for all actors throughout the chain and reduces the ecological impact on the planet. We want specifically to encourage the participation of young agri-entrepreneurs in bringing about this transition.

Arusha City Council

Arusha City Council (ACC) will be involved in the project steering committee and in all strategic decisions. It is expected to take the project over after it ends. They will play a key role in involving the youth in the food policy discussions.

Arusha City Council

Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA)

Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) will be involved in disseminating communication materials and mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs on their business models, particularly those focusing on the production, marketing and processing of horticultural products.

Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA)

ANZA Business Accelerator

ANZA Business Accelerator’s Arusha hub will provide IT infrastructure for young entrepreneurs to develop their business plan and concept. They will supply mentors for the “Generation Food Incubator” and provide technical support throughout the project.

ANZA Business Accelerator

DOEN Foundation