Kenya-based enterprises shine at the UN Food-System Summit

By checky Abuje


Two Kenya based enterprises were among the 50 best small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world announced for Best Small Businesses of the “Good Food for All” competition held in conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit.

Toothpick Company Limited, for example makes a herbicide that kills the worst weed in sub Saharan Africa, striga. The witch weed is said to affect more than 50 million hectares of crop land in Africa.

Research has shown that Toothpick’s bio-herbicide technology increases crop yield by between 42-56%, thus protecting the farm from pest threats.

Selected from nearly 2,000 applications from 135 countries, the 50 winners all showcase inspiring, diverse, and impactful solutions in improving access to healthy, sustainable food. They will also share US$100,000 in cash prizes.

“Small businesses are the hidden heroes of our food systems, managing at least half of our food economies and keeping food on our plates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. “We must understand the challenges they face and work together to ensure they remain at the heart of efforts to improve the future of food.”

Each winner was selected for how their business contributes to healthier, more sustainable and equitable food for the communities they serve; the strength of their vision for the future; and how well they communicate the current and future impact of their business.

Half are youth and nearly half are women. Winners come from a total of 42 countries, including from Europe & Central Asia (10); Africa & Middle East (13); East Asia & Pacific (10); South Asia (8); and North and Latin America (9).

“These food entrepreneurs are quiet revolutionaries. They operate in the toughest markets, having a real impact on rural poverty and hunger,” said Cherrie Atilano, Food Systems Champion and founder of Philippine agri-business AGREA. “Despite this, they are too rarely given a voice on the international stage. With a conducive business environment, positive incentives, and greater influence, they can deliver even more in the future.”

Many enterprises are innovating and scaling solutions for nutrition and sustainability, from an Israeli company producing chickpea protein powder, to an Italian start-up replacing plastic packaging with edible, bio-based natural polymers and a Chinese enterprise promoting healthier diets by offering monk fruit alternatives to sugar.

In Nigeria, an inclusive and efficient commodities market is facilitating trade across the region. “We plan to facilitate trade with Africa worth over US$500 million in the next five years,” reveals Nathaniel Etim, Head of Strategy and Finance for AFEX Commodities Exchange.