A consolidated team to empower a new generation of young food entrepreneurs

A consolidated team to empower a new generation of young food entrepreneurs

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Irene Salvi
Irene Salvi
International communications

On the 21st of November, one month after the YOUCA action day, Rikolto and YOUCA launched a new collaboration to support and encourage a new Generation of young food entrepreneurs to drive change towards a more sustainable and just food system.

The feeling of insecurity engendered by the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, rising unemployment rates and economic instability is common to young people worldwide, albeit to varying degrees. Also common to them is their compelling need to do something about it and bring positive changes to society and to their life. Rikolto and YOUCA have decided to bet on this enormous potential for innovation, and have partnered together on several projects supporting youth since 2009.

What is the YOUCA Action Day?

YOUCA, YOUth for Change and Action - is a youth organisation that encourages young people to work together towards a sustainable and just society. They raise young people’s awareness of important social challenges, support their engagement, and organise national and international encounters. Young people are at the helm of the organisation!

On YOUCA Action Day more than 15,000 young people from Flanders and Brussels commit themselves for one day to work for companies, organisations, public institutions or private individuals. Why? The “salary” earned on that day goes to projects supporting young people worldwide who are engaged towards achieving a just and sustainable society. For and by young people: that's what YOUCA stands for! On the 20th of October 2022, YOUCA will organise a YOUCA Action Day to support Rikolto’s Generation food project!

Generation Food incubators aim to connect and empower rural and urban youth, both men & women, to be change agents and to lead by example through entrepreneurship in the food sector to contribute to a sustainable food system in their city

Bernadette Ouattara Food Smart Cities programme coordinator in West Africa


Over the next two years, Rikolto will accompany youngsters from Mbale (Uganda), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Quito (Ecuador) to turn their innovative ideas into inclusive business plans. One of the lessons learned from the work done in Belgium and Tanzania is that young people have viable food business ideas, but without the right opportunities, they tend to give up. The purpose of the Generation Food programme is to fill this gap through the development of a business incubator that will:

  • provide support through training, advice and feedback
  • facilitate access to financial and technical services
  • support the participation of young people in policy discussions that affect them

*The #FeedTheFuture hashtag was chosen by the YOUCA team to promote this initiative

The Generation Food programme in a nutshell

  • Trigger innovative ideas: during the 2-day Generation Food Hackathons, 60 young people are invited to think about viable business ideas for a sustainable and fair food system. The entire product cycle is covered, from food production to distribution and consumption.
  • Capacity building: the training programme is focused on the development of business skills (financial management, strategic planning, accounting, business management, market analysis...) and social skills (leadership, teamwork, problem solving skills, networking, communication team…) and based on the action learning methodology that encourages people to reflect and learn from experience to solve real and concrete problems.
  • Entrepreneurs of tomorrow: during a regional competition, 10 to 20 ideas per city are selected to move on to the Generation Food incubator.
  • Business incubator: participants are provided with individual feedback and additional trainings, linked to a network of services providers, connected to potential customers, and given the opportunity to access start-up capital (grant or loan) to help their business take off.

What is the added value of Rikolto’s Generation Food?

Thanks to the collaboration with partners of different backgrounds, Rikolto aims to connect young entrepreneurs with national and international networks with which Rikolto already cooperates. We strongly believe that young people should be involved in decision-making processes, especially at policy level, and bring their fresh ideas and new perspectives to the discussion table.

Generation Food is one of the 5 flagships of Rikolto's international Food Smart Cities programme. In cities worldwide, including Arusha, Leuven, Quito and Ouagadougou, Rikolto catalyses collective action among local food system actors to make urban food environments and food supply chains more sustainable and inclusive. Working closely with local authorities is an opportunity to influence and participate in the definition of local policies and their translation into concrete actions on the ground.

Food Smart Cities building bridges for sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food in cities

Discover more

YOUCA and Rikolto’s cooperation milestones

  • One decade after the project ended, the Ugandan youth farms located in schools in Amach and Apaca are still up and running. More than 700 students are involved in agriculture clubs and field work and the commitment of the school managements faced with the Covid-19 disruptions was admirable. During the 10-month school closure, teachers, staff and students living nearby stepped up to continue the farming activities.

  • In Indonesia, with Healthy Food, Healthy Living, 735 young people from Bali and Java learned about sustainable agriculture and contributed to spreading a culture of eating healthy and nutritious food among the youth.

  • In Peru almost 150 youngsters have been trained as quality coffee technicians, to become professional coffee cuppers and to develop their own, tailor-made business plan.

  • Finally, 250 young people took part in the #YesYouthCan project in Nicaragua in partnership with the cocoa cooperative La Campesina. The project aimed to create income opportunities and reduce youth rural migrations by promoting the development of their business ideas. At the end of the project 17% of the cooperative’s members were youngsters of less than 35 years old, growing cocoa on at least 1 hectare. Moreover, 5 startups have been set up. Since 2018 Colruyt has been selling chocolate made from the cocoa produced by the young people of La Campesina via its own brand.

Thank you YOUCA for believing in Generation Food!

A young community of innovators wants to give their peers a sustainable future through inclusive businesses in food systems.

Generation Food goes international