Sustainable food systems: the key role of SMEs and businesses

Session N°4
Sustainable food systems: the key role of SMEs and businesses
20th May 2021, 12:00-14:00 (GMT)

The imperative of food sustainability Food systems are extremely complex. It is influenced by a set of external drivers and trends related to population, wealth, consumption preferences, technological developments, markets, environmental factors and political choices. There are also a variety of actors across the value chains from smallholder farmers through processors, buyers, traders and distributers, to final consumers guided by different priorities or expectations. Many other stakeholders are part of the agrifood ecosystem and play a key role as enablers such as governments, financial institutions, research organisations, development partners, technology providers and others.

While each one has an important role to play, the farmers groups, cooperatives, businesses and especially the micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) have to take a leadership role in driving sustainable development and economic development, providing employment and contributing to food and nutrition security.

The interlinked and cross-sectoral issues (i.e. poverty, inequality, water scarcity, climate change and the degradation of natural resources and services) require a holistic approach to support sustainable production and consumption and inclusive growth.

World population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, rising food demand to increase by at least 20% globally over the next 15 years with the largest increases projected in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia.1 We need to close the gap between today’s production and the projected demand for food in the future—and we need to make sure that any increase of the production is done in a sustainable way. Measures to raise agricultural productivity at the farm level can yield significant development gains. These include ensuring secure land tenures, better access to markets and finance, better crop choices, more effective and increased use of fertilizers, improved irrigation, diffusion and adoption of new technologies, as well as targeted trainings to help small farmers reap the benefits of cutting-edge knowledge and practices specific to the area and product.2

1 Enabling the business of agriculture. World Bank. 2017
2 World Bank. Global economic prospects. Slow Growth, Policy challenges. January 2020

You can find the programme of the session here.


20th May 2020 (12h00-14h00 GMT time)

12:00-12:10 Introduction
Welcome: Fatma Ben Rejeb, CEO, PAFO and Morag Webb, Head of Science And Policy,COLEACP
Moderator: Isolina Boto, Head of Networks and Alliances, COLEACP

12:10-12:50 Panel: Successes of businesses

  • Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, Executive Director, Smallholders Foundation, ColdHubs, Nigeria
  • Pierre Damien Mbatezimana, Managing Director, Shekina Enterprise, Rwanda
  • Gaëtan Etancelin, President, SYMABIO, Madagascar
  • Lovin Kobusingye, General Manager, Kati Farms, Uganda

12:50-13:10 Discussants

  • Roel Messie, Chief Investment Officer, IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative
  • Estherine Fotabong, Director, Programme Innovation and Planning, NEPAD Agency
  • Elizabeth Nsimadala, President of PAFO and Member of the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit

13:10-13:45 Debate
13:45-14:00 Key takeaways and conclusion

  • Ishmael Sunga, CEO, SACAU and Member of the UNFSS Food Systems Champions Network

Closure: Fatma Ben Rejeb, CEO, PAFO



  • Fatma BEN REJEB – CEO, Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO)

    Fatma BEN REJEB – CEO, Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO)

    Fatma Ben Rejeb has been working with farmers’ organisations for more than 20 years. She began her involvement in land and legal affairs with farmers and their grassroots organisations. Subsequently, she held the administrative and financial management, and later the international cooperation and the partnership management at the Tunisian National Farmers Organization. She has been Director of the North African Farmers’ Network (UMNAGRI). Fatma holds a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Political Science, a Masters in Juridical Sciences and a Certificate of Specialised Studies in Political and International Studies. She is fluent in Arabic, French, English, Italian and basic knowledge in Spanish.

  • Isolina BOTO – Head of Networks and Alliances, COLEACP

    Isolina BOTO – Head of Networks and Alliances, COLEACP

    Isolina Boto is the Head of Networks and Alliances at COLEACP, a non-profit Association of private sector operators in the agrifood sector active in the EU, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) regions. Isolina has more than 25 years of experience in agricultural development. She started her career with the European Commission and has also worked with various ACP embassies and NGOs in areas related to food security, rural development and trade. Before joining COLEACP, she was the Manager of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) Brussels Office (2004-2020) implementing policy initiatives related to the ACP-EU cooperation in the field of agricultural and rural development. She has led agribusiness projects in support of capacity development of SMEs, entrepreneurs and farmers organisations across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

  • Gaëtan ETANCELIN – President, SYMABIO, Madagascar

    Gaëtan ETANCELIN – President, SYMABIO, Madagascar

    Gaëtan Etancelin has 19 years of experience in the organic sector and is an expert in organic certification. He is the Administrative Director of the Malagasy family business Huilerie Melville Groupe Savonnerie Tropicale.SA and National Vice-President of the Entrepreneurship and Youth Commission within the Groupement du Patronat Malagasy (FIV. MPA.MA) since 2020. He was elected Vice-President of the Malagasy Union of Organic Agriculture (SYMABIO) in 2015 and President in 2017 and 2019. He is a founding member of the first private Training Centre for Rural Animator Technicians in the Atsinanana Region in 2009, as well as of the first business incubator in Tamatave and of the network of organic organisations in East Africa (IFOAM Southern Africa Network), which includes 11 countries since 2020. He contributed to the adoption of the Malagasy regulation on organic agriculture in 2020 and to the drafting and adoption of the Swiss organic palm oil specifications as a member of the «Organic Palm Oil Task Force» for the BIOSUISSE certification from 2018 to 2021. He is also an active member of the Agora des Paysages et des Forêts de Madagascar initiative of the Think Tank INDRI (Initiative for Development, Ecological Restoration and Innovation).

  • Estherine LISINGE-FOTABONG – Director, Programme Innovation and Planning, NEPAD Agency

    Estherine LISINGE-FOTABONG – Director, Programme Innovation and Planning, NEPAD Agency

    Mrs Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong is the Director of Programme Innovation and Planning at the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa’s Development]). She received award of recognition from the Government of Egypt in February 2020, for her support to Africa’s development and women empowerment. In May 2014 and July 2016, Mrs Fotabong received Honorary Awards from the Governments of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Republic of Cameroon respectively, for her passion, dedication and leadership towards advancing equality and empowerment of African women. She also received special recognition in 2015 by Top Women in Business & Government (a leading corporate publication in Africa); acknowledging her work as one of the Top women in Agriculture Policy on the continent. Before her appointment as Director at the AUDA-NEPAD, Mrs Fotabong was the UNEP (UN Environment Programme) Country Liaison Officer for South Africa and the Senior Environment and Tourism Adviser to the NEPAD Secretariat. Previously she held several positions including: Assistant Lecturer in Law at the University of Soa, Yaoundé, Cameroon; Director of Policy and Strategy; WWF Central African Regional Programme Office, Biodiversity and NEPAD Programme Officer with UNEP-DGEF (Division of Global Environment Facility Coordination). She has a Master’s Degree in Law and another Master’s Degree in International Affairs, specialising in International Policy and Practice. Mrs Fotabong has served on several panels and international steering committees for various projects. Mrs Fotabong has coauthored several publications relating to Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental Law and Development Policy. She has extensive global travel experience, through serving in various portfolios.

  • Nnaemeka IKEGWUONU – Executive Director, Smallholders Foundation, ColdHubs, Nigeria

    Nnaemeka IKEGWUONU – Executive Director, Smallholders Foundation, ColdHubs, Nigeria

    Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is a farmer and community radio agricultural presenter. He is the founder and Executive Director of Smallholders Foundation Ltd. /Gte, created in 2003 at the age of 21. The Foundation uses its Smallholder Farmers Rural Radio (FARM F.M) Network to reach an estimated 250,000 farmers with daily messages about agriculture, environmental management and market access, as well as educational messages. Since 2015, he is the founder and CEO of ColdHubs Limited (, a social business that designs, installs and commissions 100% solar powered walk-in cold rooms in farms and marketplaces, to enable smallholder farmers, retailers and wholesalers to store and preserve fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable food 24/7 extending the shelf life from 2 days to 21 days. ColdHubs aims to eliminate the food spoilage due to the lack of small-scale post-harvest infrastructure which is globally faced by 470 million smallholder farmers, as well as to increase the income of farmers and retailers. Nnaemeka is one of Nigeria’s most prominent young agriculturist : he is, among others, an Ashoka Fellow 2008, Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2010, Laureate WISE Awards 2010, Future Awards Nigeria’s Young Person of the Year 2011, Fast Company USA 100 Most Creative in Business 2012, Laureate of the Niigata International Food Prize, Japan 2012 and 2013, Laureate of the Yara Prize for Green Revolution in Africa (now Africa Food Prize).

  • Lovin KOBUSINGYE – General Manager, Kati Farms, Uganda

    Lovin KOBUSINGYE – General Manager, Kati Farms, Uganda

    Lovin Kobusingye is a vibrant businesswoman, holds a Bachelor of Science in food science and technology degree and a Master’s in Business Administration. She is the co-founder and CEO of Kati Farms Ltd based in Kampala, Uganda, a company which employs 38 permanent staff of which 23 are women. For over ten years, she, her two partners and nearly a thousand other fish farmers, have worked on fish processing and value addition. At the same time, she has persistently lobbied the government to support women-led entrepreneurship through an enabling policy framework designed to protect women in fisheries activities both in Uganda and, at a higher level, throughout Africa. She is the President of the Eastern Africa Women and Youth in Fisheries and Aquaculture Network (AWFISHNET EA) that includes representation from 11 Eastern Africa countries, the Treasurer of the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET), the Investment Committee Vice ChairpersonENABLE YOUTH Program Uganda and a National Technical Committee Member-Uganda National Bureau of standards (UNBS TC 211) Fish and Fishery products. She won the Africa Agribusiness Innovator of the Year Award in 2012. She also has been recognized by the Rabobank Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Market Research Centre (EMRC) for her innovative solutions to solving challenges of postharvest losses in the fisheries sector in Africa.

  • Pierre Damien MBATEZIMANA – Managing Director, Shekina Enterprise, Rwanda

    Pierre Damien MBATEZIMANA – Managing Director, Shekina Enterprise, Rwanda

    Pierre Damien Mbatezimana is the Founder and Managing Director of Shekina Enterprise. He holds a diploma in Accounting and Management, started his career in accounting for Caisse d’Epargne du Rwanda and later as a Finance Manager for consulting company Sopres. Shekina Enterprise is a Rwandan pioneer company in the cassava industry which manufactures dried and instant cassava leaf products for both local and export markets. Drought-resistant, fresh cassava leaves are a staple in the East African diet, but take hours to cook and expire quickly. By drying and packaging them, Shekina Enterprise has increased the sales price for cassava leaves, creating greater economic value for the women who farm and package them. The cassava waste is processed as an organic fertiliser, another product sold by Shekina Enterprise’s women employees.

  • Roel MESSIE – Chief Investment Officer, IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative

    Roel MESSIE – Chief Investment Officer, IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative

    Roel Messie is Chief Investment Officer of IDH Trade and director of the IDH Innovative Finance team. He played an instrumental role in the development of the Farmfit Fund, a blended finance fund aimed at improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. He helped design fund structure, investment strategy and governance. He engaged with both public and private investors. From 2001 to 2017, he occupied varied positions at the Dutch development finance institution (FMO). He was a Senior Investment Officer and oversaw FMO private equity investments in Latin America. Then he served for six years as director of Special Operations for FMO, oversaw the workout and recovery of a number of projects and served as a member of the Advisory Committees of two multi-billion dollar. He concluded his career at FMO as director of FMO Public Investment where he oversaw Government-funded investment funds, as well as government supported projects in emerging markets using public funds of The Netherlands and the European Union.

  • Elizabeth NSIMADALA – Member of the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and President of PAFO

    Elizabeth NSIMADALA – Member of the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and President of PAFO

    Elizabeth is a Ugandan young agripreneur, President of the Pan Africa Farmers Organization (PAFO) and the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF). She is a member of the United Nations Advisory Committee for The Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit 2021, a task force member for AU- EU Cooperation in Agriculture, sits on the Global steering committee for Forest Farm Facility (FFF), serves on the board of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), is a Governing Council member for Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM), member of the steering committee of Pan Africa Agribusiness Chamber (PAAAC) and a board member for ACTESA/COMESA. She also serves on a number of National and local farmers’ and cooperative platforms. Elizabeth is a passionate cooperator and farmer who has been at the fore front of championing digitalization of the agriculture sector through the EAFF farmers’ owned E-granary mobile initiative that virtually aggregates farmers for input, services and output markets. As a result of her efforts and support to Farmers Organizations, she was globally recognized by the World Farmers Organization as one of the women contributing to sustainable development.

  • Ishmael Sunga – CEO, SACAU and Member of the UNFSS Food Systems Champions Network

    Ishmael Sunga – CEO, SACAU and Member of the UNFSS Food Systems Champions Network

    A Zimbabwean national, Ishmael holds a BSc (Economics) degree and has post-graduate qualifications, including in MSc (Strategic Management). He has more than 30 years’ wide-ranging experience in agriculture and rural development, including in policy research and advocacy, as well as development management. Apart from southern Africa where he is based, he has also worked in the UK and undertaken assignments in other parts of Africa and Asia (India, Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka). He became the CEO of SACAU in 2005, two years after the establishment of its permanent regional secretariat. He has since established SACAU as the voice of farmers of southern Africa, a brand which is visible at regional and global levels, and is associated with good corporate governance, professionalism and high standards of development management. He has spearheaded the organisation’s work in several key areas, including digital solutions; climate change management; the development of a new generation of farmers and of farmers’ organisations; systems management and multistakeholder approaches, and value-chain cooperation. He serves in various capacities on structures of several continental and global institutions and initiatives, such as the United Nations Food Systems Summit, the World Economic Forum, African Union/NEPAD, AGRA, Montpellier Malabo Panel of Experts, Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Generation Africa and the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification. His ambition is to establish SACAU as a farmers’ organisation development and policy think tank and innovation centre aimed at addressing systemic agricultural development matters with the farmers’ lens, including issues to do with fundamental values and principles relating to equity, fairness, transparency, inclusion and voice.

  • Morag Webb – Head of Science and Policy, COLEACP

    Morag Webb – Head of Science and Policy, COLEACP

    Morag Webb is Head of Science and Policy for COLEACP, a non-profit Association of private sector operators in the agrifood sector active in the EU, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) regions. She has specialist expertise in market access, sustainability, food safety and plant health and has worked for the organisation since 2003. Prior to this she worked in industry as well as the UK public sector, and then spent 15 years in research, managing projects financed by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in South America and Africa. Morag now oversees COLEACP research and innovation activities, and leads the sustainability programme. She also provides technical advice, and engages with regulators and standard setters to lobby and advocate on behalf of the ACP horticulture sector. She holds a Bachelor in Environmental Science and Applied Ecology from the University of Bradford, UK, and a Master of Science in Integrated Pest Management from Imperial College, London, UK.

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