What are food systems and why do they need to change?

According to UNICEF, food systems are "the public policy decisions; the national and global systems and supply chains; and the individuals and groups – public and private – that influence what we eat." In other words, the systems responsible for managing food production and distribution, from the moment farming starts to the moment a family gathers around a table to eat.

And that is where the problem lies: a substantial portion of the world's population doesn't have access even to the bare minimum of food necessary for a healthy diet. Two in every three children between the ages of six months and two years are not getting the required diverse diet for growth, putting them at a fatal risk of severe malnutrition. Changing this profit-driven, individualistic food system is fundamental in making food available for every family on the planet and in halting the environmental devastation caused by the current food industry.

Many universities tackle the issue of ending the food crisis around the world through research and education. Isara Lyon, an institute specialized in agricultural, food, and environmental science, offers training programs designed to increase employability in the agricultural and agrifood sectors. The FOOD AFRICA Program has the ambition to go further by focusing on the challenges of these sectors in Africa.

The FOOD AFRICA Program

For decades, agriculture has played a significant role in reducing the problem of food insecurity in Africa. Effectively increasing agricultural productivity and the creation of added value through local food processing are integral parts of the solution, but for the sector to thrive, it needs qualified and skilled professionals. Isara, EHEB and their academic and professional partners are launching the FOOD AFRICA program, with the support of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region as part of the Ambition International 2021 package. Through the FOOD AFRICA Program, Isara and the EHEB School are creating a Franco-Moroccan training hub for employability in the agricultural and agrifood sectors in Africa, providing the necessary education to ensure that its students meet the professional expectations of the African job market. This project started in 2021 and will last three years in order to allow the opening of the training for the beginning of the school year 2023.

Isara's partnerships with academic and professional institutions in France and Morocco will allow the school to assemble a program based on the experience and expectations of high-profile active agricultural agencies and on offering students professional enrichment through internships, interventions, and, eventually, job opportunities for the program's graduates.

Through this partnership and the needs that will be expressed by the companies, the first part of the program will be delivered at EHEB, and the final part is delivered in Lyon by Isara, which will provide full institutional support to African students to ensure better adapted young professional profiles and facilitate companies' development in Africa.

Isara has a long tradition of providing high-level education in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences, with recognizable excellence in agroecology and sustainable food systems. Its contributions to sustainable agriculture earned it a visit from Prince Charles in 2018, and the school's bachelor’s and master’s degrees attract international students interested in benefiting from its innovative and entrepreneurship-focused approach.

The stages of the program

The program has three stages: employability, training, and recruitment.

Step 1 - Employability

Isara and EHEB work together with professionals who invest or wish to invest in Morocco and more broadly in Africa to identify the knowledge and skills required, in order to tailor students’ education to these needs

Step 2 - Training

Isara and EHEB then use these findings to give comprehensive, modern, industry-specific education in agriculture, food, and environmental science. Always at the heart of the project are companies, which are involved in workshops, interventions, internships, and more.

Step 3 - Student recruitment

Once the training program is ready, academic and professional partners will meet, select and recruit students who meet the prerequisites of the program, in terms of academic background and soft skills. Selection will be conducted jointly by academic institutions and companies, in Morocco and in Africa, during fairs, forums, and presentations.

Why Morocco?

There are many reasons why students often choose Morocco and why Isara chose it as host for the FOOD AFRICA Program. Internationally speaking, Morocco is considered an anchor point between Africa and Europe, having a market of its own while serving as a gateway to the rest of the African continent. Moreover, the high-quality education and the significantly lower cost of living compared to most European countries attract students from all over Africa, who value excellent education without letting go of living in an affordable country.

Morocco has always been an active supporter of the agricultural sector, particularly since 2008 when the Green Morocco Plan was established. A little over a decade later, the plan has attracted over $11 billion in investment and generated over 340,000 new jobs. Following the success of the Green Morocco Plan, the recently-launched Green Generation 2020-2030 strategy supports young farmers in strengthening sustainable agriculture and streamlining climate-smart practices.

According to Jesko Hentschel, World Bank Maghreb Country Director, "The strategy is a landmark plan introducing a paradigm shift in the way Morocco envisions agricultural development by moving from a singular focus on production to one which encompasses building human capital, fostering livelihoods and nurturing sustainable and climate-smart rural value chains."

And after?

This project will serve as a model for the development of other training hubs in Africa (similar work is already underway in Ivory Coast with the ESA INP-HB, Isara's historical partner) and eventually in English-speaking Africa.

Students and researchers are integral in creating new sustainable practices and revolutionizing the current broken food systems that operate worldwide and maintain profit above equal access to food. If you are interested in studying at Isara and helping move the solution to food insecurity in Africa forward, visit the program's website for more information.

Article written in association with Isara.