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African Food Banks Strengthen Each Other by Sharing Lessons Learned

By Anthony Kitchen and Gabriela Kafarhire
In late June, more than 40 food banking professionals from seven countries met to exchange ideas, best practices, and expertise as a part of the 2021 Africa Food Bank Incubator Conference. Due to the pandemic, it was the first time this group had the opportunity to get together in nearly two years. Although it was a great shame not meeting in person, that disappointment was overshadowed by the remarkable progress of food bank leadership as well as the presence of many new names and faces.
Food bank staff from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, and Nigeria convene for the first virtual Africa Food Bank Incubator Conference. (Photo: The Global FoodBanking Network)
The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) launched the Africa Incubator Program in 2019 with the express goal of accelerating the development of young food banks and promoting food banking in Africa. Although the food bank model is recognized and successful in many parts of the world, it is not well established in Africa with the notable exception of GFN member FoodForward South Africa, which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. The Africa Incubator program focuses on expanding food banking organizations in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, and Nigeria, and the conference brought food bank leaders from these countries together to share lessons learned. In 2020, 46 million more people in Africa were affected by hunger when compared to 2019, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. To meet the increased need, these young food banks served 906,026 people despite myriad logistical challenges. In fact, according to GFN survey data, Africa was the region with the highest growth in people served of any of the regions in the Network, increasing the population served by 169 percent from 2019. The conference provided opportunities for African food banks to support each other during trying times while elaborating on the strategies used to overcome obstacles and grow exponentially. For example, Nyoro spoke about Food Banking Kenya’s necessary pivot to sourcing 51 percent of its food donations directly through farmers and other agricultural sources. As a long-time established food banking presence in Africa, FoodForward SA provided mentorship within the context of the region. In one session, FoodForward SA Fund Development Manager Deidre Adams explained where the organization sources their funding and how they cultivate long-term partnerships. It’s our hope that this virtual conference provided valuable training and idea sharing while fostering a sense of shared purpose and community amongst African food banks. According to post-event survey results, 100 percent of participants stated that their knowledge and skills increased as a result of attending the conference and that they will apply what they learned in their job. Nearly 90 percent of participants felt that that being part of the GFN Africa Food Bank Incubator is helping their food banks develop and grow more quickly. The passion, energy, and enthusiasm of this group of African food bankers is remarkable and could be seen and felt even at a virtual event. In barely two years since the Incubator program was launched, these food banks have achieved remarkable results despite the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, civil unrest, drought, and other significant obstacles. The degree to which all the participants were willing to openly share experiences, exchange ideas, and discuss joint challenges demonstrates a shared sense of purpose and a rapidly growing spirit of community amongst African food banks. GFN looks forward to further work with this Incubator cohort as they continue their growth, expand service in their communities, and advance food banking on the African continent. Take a virtual tour of the Africa Incubator food banks.