The Food Chain Global Food Champion is a UK-based competition hosted by the BBC. Running for the fifth time, this year’s award was aimed at youths around the world, aged between 18 and 30, who are trying to change how we deal with food and leave a lasting legacy on our relationship with it. This year’s winner was Samuel Ikua, from Nairobi, Kenya. The winner of the award was announced at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in Cardiff on November 9, 2022.
A different food system approach
Samuel, 29, works with Mazingira, a Kenyan not-for-profit organisation aiming to advance human dignity for all and promote sustainable natural environments. He teaches people how to farm in their backyard, helping local communities provide income for themselves and food security through urban farming.
Samuel takes a systemic approach which views food operations in a holistic perspective, which entails food production, processing, distribution, consumption and food waste management, including the wider governance. The aim is to reduce food waste across the food chains, while seeking to enhance inclusiveness and resilience.
After taking the urban farming course himself in 2015, Samuel started his own project with his grandfather. “It is quite a unique thing because people would not expect you to keep dairy good and livestock in your backyard. At first some neighbours would complain, but with time they started seeing the benefit coming from it because we would occasionally share with them the milk or the manure from the goats.”
The first hurdle is to find space to farm
Sam is now a Project Coordinator working in Nairobi’s informal settlements, some of the most deprived areas of the city. He encourages communities to use livestock manure to produce crops, while using surplus food as animal feed.
These are areas where people have very low, not regular income. This is why we saw that urban agriculture could be a good alternative to have constant income. These areas do not have land for housing, let alone land to do urban agriculture.
Residents generally use the available open public spaces. “There are many challenges that a city faces, a key one is food and particularly access to fresh and safe food. By producing food in your city and backyard, you will harvest vegetables that you have produced yourself and most important is that they are affordable for the low income household. They are able to save a considerable amount of money through food production.”
Sam’s passion for farming goes back to his upbringing in a rural area where they would farm vegetables and animals. “After harvesting you feel good, you are connecting with nature and with the soil and know that you are contributing to a bigger goal of providing food to other people.
“I would tell all the young people in the world that they should get into farming because farming is profitable. As young people we are high risk takers and what we can do is take the risk and engage in agriculture because there are so many benefits associated with this.”
RUAF Global Partnership on Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems
Samuel is also involved in many different networks, learning and sharing his knowledge. One of these networks is the RUAF Global Partnership on Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems. RUAF is a consortium of expert institutions and individuals and associates with a significant track record in urban and peri-urban agriculture and urban food system solutions. RUAF aims to advance urban agriculture and the transformation of food systems in cities around the world.
Listen to the BBC podcast episode: “Samuel Ikua: Global Youth Champion 2022“