Rikolto Podcast: Good food is a right

Rikolto Podcast: Good food is a right

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Podcast interview by our former colleague Aäron De Fruyt, with Thibault Geerardyn, Business Developer of Rikolto from Belgium, Victor Engelen, a young food entrepreneur from Belgium who has created granola, Délicé, from waste streams, Hilda Okoth, our #YouthinAg expert from Tanzania who guides Rikolto´s Generation Food incubator and Chris Leopold, CEO of Yields of Africa, a young food entrepreneur from Arusha in Tanzania.

In this episode of the Rikolto podcast, our former colleague Aäron, chats with Thibault, Victor, Hilda, and Chris. They take us from Leuven (Belgium) and Arusha (Tanzania) to tell us all about how young entrepreneurs are changing food systems. They provide in-depth insights into why it is so important to support young entrepreneurs like Victor and Chris on their entrepreneurial food journeys and answer many more questions, like: how does Rikolto allow young entrepreneurs to put their ideas for their own business in the food sector into practice? What is Generation Food? And what have been the challenges and lessons learned by these young entrepreneurs involved in the Generation Food project?

Main takeaways

  • How to feed cities in a sustainable, inclusive, and nutritious way? is the question we are all asking ourselves. It all starts by showing young people that it is possible to do business, e.g. in the agri-food sector, in a different way than the current economic paradigm.
  • In Tanzania, the business ecosystem is difficult. Young people struggle to register their business; travelling to visit suppliers is a challenge because of the long distances; and the internet and phone connection are something not working in their favour.
  • In Tanzania, 67% of the workforce are young people, which opens many opportunities to work with them from food production to distribution at different levels.
  • The Generation food project starts from the idea that everyone in the city should have access to safe and nutritious food, and that opens a lot of questions, like where does our food come from?, what do we do about food waste? These are complex questions that need input from different perspectives, and at Generation Food, Rikolto is working with young people with different perspectives to identify practical business solutions.
  • How to support young entrepreneurs on their way through incubators like Generation Food? Access to funding is key, certainly, but training and follow-up are equally important. Maybe you can have the funds and the basic know-how, but the support with different skills to keep going is important. Another relevant aspect is networking. When you are starting as a young entrepreneur having a network of contacts is essential. "There will always be someone who knows more than you" and using all this knowledge to make your idea more concrete and to solve challenges "is what I appreciate most in the incubator,” said Victor.
  • In Tanzania, for example, plastics are banned, and this ban could be a possibility to ban other plastic inputs. Chris's venture, for example, is making this change now. Change is coming and in many contexts’ consumers are ready.
  • In Victor's case, he points out that start-up capital is usually low, so even designing and producing "more sustainable" packaging to complete the sustainability story is a challenge. “We don't have these funds yet. And we know that this is the story that consumers in Belgium want to see in their products.”
  • Young people face challenges such as access to land, finance, and limited access to knowledge and information. And therefore, many young people participating in Generation Food are asking us in Tanzania for these resources. Also, the involvement of young people in policy advocacy roles, as well as the mentality among young people themselves that agriculture is not attractive as a business, remain challenging.
  • Young people want to change the whole equation in the food system, from production to delivery of food. There is so much that can be done.