Chef Africa: Hospitality industry encouraged to play its part in helping African communities become self-sufficient

The hospitality industry is being encouraged to support the work of Farm Africa which has established a network of Aqua Shops to help small-scale subsistence fish farmers in Kenya

Ahead of Ashley Palmer-Watts's forthcoming trip to Kenya, members of the hospitality industry are being encouraged to follow his progress and get involved with the Farm Africa charity, which aims to give aid and knowledge to African communities to help them become self-sufficient. 

Palmer-Watts, executive chef at The Fat Duck Group and head chef of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, will be representing the sector when he jets out to Nairobi next week before heading west to visit tilapia fish farmers near Kisumu to offer tips on adding value to the fish they sell.

Generous sharing

The chef will be shown a project set-up by Farm Africa where the charity has created artificial ponds to create fish farms which, together with Aqua Shops also established in the area, are helping local farmers get a sustainable source of food and an income stream to help them become self-sufficient.

In Western Kenya, six out of 10 households rely on fish for their food, their income or both.

Cathy Whiteman, Farm Africa's head of corporate and community fundraising, said the trip was a perfect way of engaging the whole hospitality industry with the charity's work.

"We help subsistence farmers grow more so they can eat more, sell more, and buy more," she said. "Acting as an ambassador with a foot in both the food and hospitality camps, we hope that Ashley’s visit to the fish farmers of Western Kenya will boost awareness of how well its work fits the sustainability and social responsibility programmes of both food production and foodservice companies.

"Food and generous sharing are the heart of the hospitality trade so we hope that Ashley’s inspiration will generate more exciting partnerships for Farm Africa. 

Getting involved

Getting a reliable and affordable supply of healthy baby fish, high quality feed, and fish rearing know-how has held back many would-be fish farmers, but Aqua Shops, run by Farm Africa-trained local entrepreneurs, provide start-up businesses with best practice advice, market information, links to credit facilities and the supplies they need to succeed.

The charity's labours are already bearing fruit:

  • Artificial ponds, farming tilapia in the same way salmon and trout are farmed in the UK, have helped double and triple harvests.
  • More than 4,000 farmers now have access to Aqua Shops.
  • Aqua Shops have helped increase yields by up to 215 per cent.
  • Farmers using Aqua Shops are reporting a 33 per cent increase in the price of the fish they sell.
  • More than 100 farmers have received credit through financial institutions using the Aqua Shops as centres where farmers can make loan applications.
  • The Kenyan Government is now supporting 'aquaculture' as a way of stimulating economic growth.

As well as following the chef's trip exclusively on BigHospitality, those in the hospitality industry are being encouraged to get involved with the work of the charity and share their expertise with those who need it in Africa.

One way individuals can help is by sponsoring a farm group in one of a number of African nations or for companies there are various options including making Farm Africa their Charity of the Year.

"For £5 a month, anyone can do a lot to help farmers in Africa to feed themselves forever. We'll provide specialist seeds, tools and teach farmers techniques to help them conserve water and get the best from their soil. We update you so that you can follow their progress," Whiteman said.

Worthwhile support

Palmer-Watts's trip to Africa comes almost a year after 10 senior food industry executives climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in support of the charity. BigHospitality's sister publication The Grocer became exclusive media partner for the trip and sponsored a pre-expedition dinner at Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social restaurant attended by charity patron Michael Palin.

"Influential coverage in The Grocer was crucial to the success of the event as it attracted involvement and corporate sponsorship from some of the sector’s biggest retailers and suppliers," Whiteman said.

Charles Reed, William Reed Business Media managing director and newly-appointed Farm Africa Board of Trustees member, also took part in the Tanzania Challenge which raised £256k.

Since making the trip, Reed has helped the charity increase engagement with the hospitality industry as well as the food industry to encourage as many people involved in the global 'food chain' to play their part in helping sustainability in Africa. 

"The Charity’s underlying principle is to help farmers increase their productivity and become self-sufficient – feeding their families and supplying their local markets – making it a relevant and worthwhile charity for the food, drink and hospitality industries to support.

Exciting phase

"Farm Africa doesn't just talk about making a difference – it makes it. The charity is already changing the lives of  three-quarters of a million people a year and planning to double its impact by 2016. Every penny counts and we hope individuals from all parts of this great industry will feel enthused by Farm Africa’s work and become fundraisers and donors,” he said. 

"The partnership with William Reed Business Media is going from strength to strength and the media support for Ashley Palmer-Watts’ visit to Kenya from BigHospitality and Restaurant magazine marks an exciting new phase in Farm Africa’s engagement with the wider food sector," Whiteman added.

To find out how to join Ashley Palmer-Watts and help support Farm Africa, visit the charity's website or contact Cathy Whiteman directly on corporate@farmafrica.org.uk. For exclusive coverage of the #ChefAfrica trip keep visiting BigHospitality.

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