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African Futures: a theory for inclusive and sustainable futures.

Smart development for connected and inclusive African food futures

Photo of Njabulo Sandawana
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Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Other

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Just beginning now

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?


What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Zimbabwe is our country of birth, our home and the home of our dreams and aspirations. One of us was born in the city - in Harare - but spent much of her childhood in rural and peri-urban areas. The other one of us was born and grew up in peri-urban settings. Both of our grandparents were farmers: diligent, hardworking salt-of-the-earth types. They taught us the names of indigineous roots and plants. They knew which natural remedies to prescribe for which malady. They knew how to coax out of the land everything it had to give and not a bit more - they knew when to stop. Without scientific language or advanced academic degrees in agriculture, they intuitively knew and understood sustainability. Stewardship was part of their fundamental values (and is also a cornerstone of traditional Shona practice. The totem system, for example, whereby each person inherits a totem from their father, is one of the ways that our culture embeds values of stewardship within us. Most totems are animals or animal parts. Rumbidzai’s totem, for example is a lion while Njabulo’s is a monkey. Other people’s totems include: elephants, sheep, hearts of animals, eland etc. A person cannot eat their totem, and in essence is charged with being a ‘guardian’ for that totem. In the modern day, this means a responsibility to act and speak out against environmental degradation, encroachment on the Savannah lands that are most wild animals’ home, being conscious of and agitating against the damage of climate change, and more.) These values that our grandparents had and tried very hard to instill in us are in many ways dying out. Young people today do not have as close an understanding of the land and environment as the older generations did.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Zimbabwe is a beautiful African country that is rich in natural and human resources. It is a landlocked southern African country with a total land area of over 39 million hectares, with 33.3 million hectares used for agricultural purposes. the remaining 6 million hectares have been reserved for national parks and wildlife, and for urban settlements. Zimbabwe borders with Botswana, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia. It has a population of 16,5 million inhabitants, of which 41.9% are below the age of 15 years. Zimbabwe’s population is expected to reach 23 million by 2050. Agriculture and Mining are two of the major contributors to the Zimbabwean Economy with Agriculture responsible for the employment of 60-70 per cent of the population. Zimbabwe has a rich and diverse culture. There are 16 official languages recognised in Zimbabwe. The main languages spoken are English, Shona and Ndebele. Large numbers of people are employed in agriculture and post-harvest industries. In low-income countries, and particularly in Sub Saharan Africa, a dominant percentage of the population continues to rely on agriculture and associated rural activities for their livelihoods.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

    Future Challenges 

  • Africa’s population projected to reach 2,4 billion by 2050. And Zimbabwe’s population is expected to reach 23 million by 2050. Cities will get bigger with 68% of the world's population projected to live in urban areas in 2050. Rapid urbanization is caused by rural to urban migration and the excess of births over deaths which accounts for well over half of the population increase in urban areas. This expansion will pose a number of challenges, including the necessity of generating decent jobs for the growing urban population and providing people with efficient urban services in terms of housing, water and sanitation, transportation, electrification, nutrition, education, and health care. Based on current trajectories, with rising incomes in developing countries, global food consumption per capital is projected to rise.

Drought / Water scarcity

 Our county is currently facing a severe drought caused by poor rains that affected food harvests between October 2018 and May 2019. Food security has become a major concern and a large proportion of poor households (1,5million) as are in urgent need of food assistance more so in Buhera, Matabeleland and  Masvingo areas. Additionally, the shortage of water for domestic and livestock use is facing a lot of activities and resulting in poor conditions of livestock. The largest number of problems are concentrated in the capital, which is where half of the population (4.5million) currently lives without water and is forced to travel long distances to wells or even resort to using sewer, increasing the risk of epidemics.

Under-production / under-utilization of land

 Many African farmers lack the capital to invest in yield-increasing upgrades like new irrigation systems, new machinery, new fertilizers, and technology for sensing and tracking crop growth. The most common path to capital is bank loans, with the land as collateral. This  is an unattractive proposition for farmers, who already bear the many risks of production, including bad weather, changing market prices, or even the shocks of geopolitical events. One likely intervention for many African farmers involves using different fertilizers. Many farmers aren’t currently using fertilizers targeted to specific soil or various stages of farming — so fertilizer producers are another vested interest in this agriculture economy.

Rapid population growth forecast for the next 21st century will increasingly put pressure on available agricultural land. Already in Zimbabwe, wetlands and arable land availability are being reduced by unscrupulous land development and lack of effective control by local councils/land planners. Rapid population growth forecast for the next 21st century will increasingly put pressure on available agricultural land. Already in Zimbabwe, wetlands and arable land availability are being reduced by unscrupulous land development and lack of effective control by local councils/land planners.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

We believe the precursor to a sustainable food system will be the creation of an open-source ecosystem of technologies that enable and promote transparency, networked experimentation, education, and hyper-local production. We bring together partners from industry, government, and academia in a research collective that's creating collaborative tools and communities to explore future agricultural systems. This collaboration will help accelerate our efforts to develop pertinent solutions for Zimbabwean Agriculture using high-level agri-tech tools. This will offer farmers possibilities for better production and growth, which is part of our mission to contribute to Zimbabwe’s food-security objectives. It will reinforce our capabilities to offer adapted solutions to Zimbabwean farmers, especially smallholders, to enable them to make more precise and timely decisions.  aggregate food production. . Building a world fed by sustainable agriculture is a daunting task. But if  farmers, scientists, engineers, retailers, business leaders and governments are  come together we can ensure we  have enough food in the future.  Science and technology can directly contribute to food security not only by the introduction of improved crops and cropping practices, labour-saving technologies, and better communications - but also through improved quality of food storage, processing, packaging and marketing. With an integrated approach to food and farming policy as a priority in the next decade or so they will be increased support to smaller farmers and all farmers to adopt sustainable operation methods. Data - especially open data - will play a crucial role in enabling farmers and everyone else across the value chain to make decisions based on facts and evidence. These data-sets include weather data, environmental data, data on seed genetics and data on food prices. By publishing this data, as open and stimulating its use it can help optimize agricultural practices, empower farmers, stimulate rural financing and promote government transparency and efficiency The Smaller farms will hopefully find ways to survive by working together in a more strategic way through digital technology, allowing them to be more seasonal, fresh, agile and unusual in the range of products they carry and serve. What will be exciting is to see small farms coming together  to serve their communities so that as consumers we are buying from a group of farmers and producers that are local to us. Technology should allow the smaller farmer to go to lower prices, making them more competitive.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The high-level vision is… Looking forward to a vision of Zimbabwe in which the common person has opportunities to not only access basic resources (water, food, energy, fuel, mobile and internet connectivity, transport, housing) at reasonable cost but also have opportunities to advance themselves, it is necessary to be free of the imaginative constraints placed by the current situation. What if, in envisioning a secure and prosperous future for Zimbabwe, we viewed the current failures not as problems to be resolved, but as fundamental design flaws either requiring an entirely new system within which to operate (attractive but highly difficult to achieve) or innovation that succeeds in resolving the problems in such a way as to make the present system redundant. We envision a Zimbabwean future was increased agricultural productivity, improved food security and enhanced sustainability of agro-ecosystems can be achieved.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Food. What we eat, and how we grow it, will be fundamentally transformed in the next decade.

Vertical Farming

Where we grow our food…

 Delocalized farming will minimize travel costs and  maximizes freshness. Fresh produce grown in vertical farms travels only a few miles to reach the market compared to conventional produce, which can travel thousands of miles by truck or plane. Perhaps more importantly, vertical farming also allows tomorrow’s farmer the ability to control the exact conditions of her plants year round. LED lighting provides the crops with the maximum amount of light, at the perfect frequency, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Beyond providing fresh local produce, vertical agriculture could help increase food production and expand agricultural operations as Zimbabwe's population is projected to be 23 million by 2050  more people living in the city

Printing Food

3D printing has already had a profound impact on the manufacturing sector. We are now able to print in hundreds of different materials, making anything from toys to houses to organs. However, we are finally seeing the emergence of 3D printers that can print food itself. Not only will food 3D printing grant consumers control over the ingredients and mixtures they consume, but it is already beginning to enable new innovations in flavor itself, democratizing far healthier meal options in newly customizable cuisine categories.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Kehinde Fashua

Hi Njabulo Sandawana welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!
As we begin the countdown, please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision. Here is the link to the pocket guide:
Look forward to seeing your submission finalized by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST.