Generation Food goes international

Generation Food goes international

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

Under the threat of a changing climate, the deterioration of our ecosystems and political inertia at international level, most of us feel hopeless and discouraged. Youth don’t. The fact that one of the strongest activist movements worldwide is led by young people confirms this.

On one side there is our food system, responsible for almost 1/3 of the greenhouse emissions worldwide and often left behind in the discussion around climate change. On the other side there is youth (42% of the global population is under 25 years of age!) increasingly turning their back on farming and on jobs in the food sector as a whole, searching for more remunerative positions or throwing in the towel, faced with a lack of opportunities and decent jobs.

What if part of the solution relies on strengthening the foundations of the bridge connecting youngsters and the food system?

Through our Generation Food programme, we want to support the dream of young people who want to start or enhance their own business and reduce the global "food footprint". Food incubators have already been implemented in Leuven (Belgium), Arusha (Tanzania) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Thanks to our collaboration with Youca, funds collected by youngsters for youngsters will give rise to two new projects, one in Mbale (Uganda) and another one in Quito (Ecuador), and give further support to the initiative in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

Creativity, passion, courage, and a desire to get involved are all characteristics of young people. Our common responsibility is to light the fuse of their willingness to bring positive changes.

  • The first Generation Food incubator was set up in Leuven through a joint investment by the Province of Flemish Brabant and EIT Food.
  • In 2020, thanks to the joint investment of the DOEN foundation, an incubator was launched in Arusha. A Generation Food Accelerator funded by the European Union with 4 cycles of entrepreneurs (2021-2024) was kicked off in 2021 in five regions of the Southern Highlands in Tanzania.
  • Ouagadougou: a 2-year project started in 2020 thanks to the Gillès Foundation.

By youngsters for youngsters

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. The “salary” earned on that day goes to projects supporting young people worldwide who are engaged towards achieving a just and sustainable society. Rikolto and Youca have partnered together since 2009 to support and encourage young people into farming and food businesses.

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The challenges

  • Whether for producing their own sustainable, healthy food, or running a small business that processes and/or packs food ecologically, young people often lack technical entrepreneurial skills (financial management, strategic planning, accounting, business management, market analysis….) and essential entrepreneurial soft skills (leadership, teamwork, problem solving, networking, communication…) to turn their ideas into concrete business plans.

  • These skills can hardly be developed in an unfavourable environment. Young people often lack connections with a network of service providers on which to rely, and of successful companies and entrepreneurs from which they can learn.

  • A good business plan goes along with the necessary investment. The limited access to finance with favourable conditions is one of the major causes that dissuade new potential and innovative entrepreneurs from taking on the challenge.

  • Youth unemployment: data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) indicate that as of December 2019, 37% of Ecuador’s unemployed are young people aged 15-24. In Burkina Faso, where almost 80% of the population works in agriculture, the unemployment rates are not high, but the vast majority of jobs are informal and insecure. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world (78% under the age of 30), and 83.5% of the Ugandan population aged 15-29 works in informal jobs, a figure 10% higher for young women than men.

  • Finally, young people are scarcely involved in the decision-making processes of food policies that define the framework within which they want to develop their businesses.

What is our approach?

Connect and strengthen young men and women in rural and urban areas.

Rikolto will conduct a communications campaign in each city to reach the greatest number of youngsters and invite them to a 2-day Generation Food Hackathon. During the hackathon, 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. Participants are divided into complementary and mixed groups to enrich exchanges and be a source of mutual inspiration, and experts provide technical background and insights on specific topics. The most motivated are invited to participate in a 6-month “Start your startup” programme during which they will be coached in business skills (financial management, strategic planning, accounting, business management, market analysis, design thinking...) and social skills (leadership, teamwork, problem solving skills, networking, communication, team dynamics…) and will participate in field visits and in-depth discussions with experts on their business plan. We want to stimulate innovations from the bottom up!

Create more attractive jobs for rural and urban youth in the food sector.

During a local regional competition, between 10 and 20 ideas are then selected to be part of the Generation Food incubator. The winning teams will be taccompanied in the development or enhancement of their start-up through training, coaching, mentorship and networking. Participants will be 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. New youth-led businesses will provide job opportunities for young women and men.

Enhance young people’s involvement in decision-making processes influencing the food system of the future.

Rikolto will connect young entrepreneurs with national and international networks that support young entrepreneurs, through their participation in networking events, platforms and thematic discussions. Particular attention will be given to increase youth representation in policy discussions on food and agriculture in the multi-stakeholder platforms located in every city where Rikolto already works. If we want young people to be key players in the shaping of a future-proof food system, they must have a voice in the debate.

Start local communities of young food entrepreneurs.

A thriving community of strong entrepreneurs brings big advantages not only to the young entrepreneurs but also to a larger community of consumers. Complementarities and synergies among young entrepreneurs are key to leverage economies of scale along the value chain, to promote a more inclusive business culture and increase access to a more healthy and sustainable food for citizens. Rikolto aims to integrate the Generation Food incubators in the three cities to ensure that they will be supported by the city multi-stakeholder platforms after the end of the programme.

Generation Food is one of the 5 flagships of Rikolto's international Food Smart Cities programme. Within this programme, Rikolto supports municipalities in formulating food policies and putting them into practice.

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The development of inclusive business models in the food system and the setup of the incubator is done in collaboration with precious partners such as universities, businesses, local food production/distribution initiatives, municipalities and farmer cooperatives. Read more about their contribution in the “Partners” session.

We contribute to the following sustainability objectives :

This is what 2024 will look like!

A group of approximately 240 young people between 18 and 25 acquires the necessary skills to develop a business plan. The teams with the most innovative ideas join the Generation Food Incubator in their region and 70% of them set up their own business. This means around 15 new, innovative, forward-looking food business initiatives in each city, bringing the total to 45. Both young people who want to launch their start-up and young people who already have an existing business and want to make it more sustainable, are involved in the process; and half of the new entrepreneurs are young women.

70% of young people join an international network of change-makers and exchange with other entrepreneurs in the food sector from Arusha (Tanzania), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Mbale (Uganda), Quito (Ecuador) and Leuven (Belgium).

The future young entrepreneurs relate to local platforms with a focus on local food policies and develop a network that will help them get new financial and learning resources.

Many other young people are inspired by the journey of their peers to become ambassadors and active actors of a sustainable food system.


They already have a business incubator programme and are interested in extending it through the Generation Food incubator with a specific focus on food and agriculture and on youth.


ConQuito is a NGO that fosters productivity and socio-economic development in the Metropolitan district of Quito (Ecuador), bringing local actors together to define food policies for the city .

UDLA University

Teachers and students of their sustainable gastronomy programme are willing to coach the youngsters participating in the Generation Food incubator.

UDLA University

UDLA is a university in Ecuador which aims to train future entrepreneurs with an international vision, committed to society and with strong ethical convictions.


CUM is an organisation formed by 20 different local initiatives on responsible food consumption in Quito (Ecuador).

Agence du Développement Économique Urbain (ADEU)

It aims to bring together all the existing incubators in the city of Ouagadougou to increase efficiency and have a greater impact. Moreover, they want to improve and strengthen the links between rural and urban areas, especially in the food sector.

Agence du Développement Économique Urbain (ADEU)

Urban Economic Development Agency of the city of Ouagadougou.

Institut de Recherche en Sciences Appliquées et Technologies, Département de Technologie Alimentaire (IRSAT/DTA)

Institut de Recherche en Sciences Appliquées et Technologies, Département de Technologie Alimentaire (IRSAT/DTA)

Department of Food Technology (DTA) of the Research Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IRSAT) located in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). IRSAT is a specialised institute of the National Centre for Scientific and Technological Research which has experience in supporting companies that process agricultural products and in training young people.



SHONA provides business advisory services and training to help SMEs grow revenue and become profitable. Their goal is to build a thriving East African private sector driven by good business. SHONA defines these businesses as those that positively benefit society, including customers, employees, owners, value chain partners and the community in which they are based.

Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD)

The Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) is the Belgian ministry for Development Cooperation. DGD is the major funder of Rikolto programmes.


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. 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!

Mbale (Uganda)

Peter Businda
Peter Businda
Food Smart City & Horticulture Agribusiness Advisor-Mbale,Uganda

Quito (Ecuador)

Nataly Pinto Alvaro
Nataly Pinto Alvaro
Consultora externa | Ecuador

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)

Bernadette Ouattara
Bernadette Ouattara
Food Smart Cities programme coordinator
+226 70 26 86 96