On the occasion of its 100th birthday (1918-2018), the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in The Netherlands invited its alumni around the world to organize a Worldwide Alumni Day. With the support of Ethiopian WUR alumni, The Netherlands Embassy and the WUR-‘Bilateral Ethiopian-Netherlands Effort for Food, Income and Trade (BENEFIT) Partnership’, the AgriProFocus Network in Ethiopia organized this Alumni Day on Saturday 23 June 2018 at ILRI, Addis Ababa. Since WUR has a unique understanding of the entire food chain, the central theme of the Alumni Day was ‘Access to Healthy Food in Mega Cities’.
The Dutch-based AgriProFocus Network within the AgroFood sector in Ethiopia ensured that the Alumni Day in Ethiopia consisted of a true multi-stakeholder exchange between the public, private and civil society sector on access to healthy food in Africa’s mega cities; Ethiopia's mega city Addis Ababa in specific. About 1201 people showed up to listen to the keynote speakers and take part in the group discussions around food safety, food waste, urban agricultural activities and private-sector engagement in making healthy food accessible and affordable. Besides, a food fair was organized to provide the alumni and AgriProFocus Ethiopia’s local members, mainly start-ups and young agri-entrepreneurs, a chance to showcase their healthy food products. Fifteen local private-sector actors2 were given this platform in order to support them in their active contribution to improve access to healthy food for urban dwellers in Ethiopia. Also, five research poster presenters were selected through a call for abstracts prior to the Alumni Day to share their evidence-based research related to the central theme of the day.
Keynote speakers Dr. Jan Willem Nibbering, the Senior Food Security Policy Officer at The Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (EKN) and Dr. Alberto Giani from FAO Ethiopia, spoke about the need for a food system approach in order to effectively increase the sustainability, accessibility and affordability of healthy food products for urban dwellers. They stressed that by 2030 more people worldwide will live in cities than in rural areas; including in Ethiopia. Keynote speaker Mr. Teferra Abraha, a WUR Alumnus himself and currently working for the Urban Agriculture department of the Addis Ababa administration, gave a concise overview of the policy strategy regarding urban agriculture in Addis Ababa. This policy framework encourages the engagement of gender and youth in urban agricultural activities and the need for strong multi-stakeholder collaborations to make urban food systems work for healthy food intake of urban dwellers.
All the ideas exchanged by the participants during the day were used as an input for the online worldwide dialogue organized to invite prominent alumni from Africa, Asia, South America, the US and Europe, to discuss the challenges and opportunities around access to healthy food in metropolitan cities worldwide. The WUR Alumni Day in Ethiopia was selected as one of the venues for the online dialogue, and represented the voice of Africa. The event ended with a networking reception with live music from the environmental protection youth club of Mentesinot Urban Agriculture, a grassroots movement that promotes sustainable urban agriculture and environmental protection within underdeveloped communities in Addis Ababa.
The WUR is one of the world’s leading universities with a strong focus on sustainable agriculture and food & nutrition security. The WUR has helped spur the agricultural development in Ethiopia. WUR has also provided scholarships for many Ethiopians for a short course, MSc or PhD study and has around 20 WUR projects on-going in Ethiopia of which ‘BENEFIT-partnership’ is the most prominent due to its strong collaboration with key local agricultural knowledge institutions/public sector actors.
The report provides an overview of the main outcomes of the different sessions held during this event, including the keynote speeches, presentations, food fair, research posters, group discussions and online dialogue. Finally, the report describes the way forward in which several opportunities are listed for continued joint action on ensuring access to healthy food in Ethiopia’s mega cities.