Located in Lusaka, Zambia, Forest Fruits is one of the leading producers of organic honey and beeswax in Zambia. Committed to improving the livelihoods of farmers, Forest Fruits sources honey from over 7000 traditional beekeepers near the Zambezi River that utilize sustainable farming practices. Forest Fruits’ main product is not pasteurized and therefore maintains the healthy bioflavonoids, enzymes and other nutritional elements. To further improve the quality of their products, Forest Fruits looked to become HACCP certified. “Being HACCP certified would add great value to our product,” said Christian Nawej Kabongo, general manager of Forest Fruits. “The certification provides the safety that every consumer would like to be assured of.”
Forest Fruits had challenges passing their previous HACCP audit due to lack of in-house expertise and poor adoption of HACCP requirements into their operations. In order to achieve their goal of becoming HACCP certified, Forest Fruits worked with General Mills volunteers Tomomi Fujimaru and Natalia Faiden. “Volunteering at PFS provides the perfect combination of taking advantage of the resources and knowledge that we have at General Mills to support and develop the food industry where it is needed, and getting to know other cultures and learn from them,” said Natalia. “It’s also a great vehicle for growing the food industry by partnering with great leaders amongst the industry.”
When Tomomi and Natalia started the project, Forest Fruit’s HACCP program was far from being audit and certification ready. Tomomi said, “Natalia and I reviewed their program in detail, asked many questions and provided candid feedback that would help them achieve their goal of obtaining a certification.” Not being able to see the process and the products in person did pose additional challenges, but through the team’s commitment Forest Fruits was able to address their challenges and improve their system.
“Without a doubt, my favorite part of this project was seeing Forest Fruit’s transformation and them receiving the certification seals at the end of the project,” said Natalia. “Forest Fruits’ willingness to learn and their positive attitude was a huge part of this success.”
Today, Forest Fruits has a team of food safety processors who are now fully qualified to handle food processing. “This was not an easy journey for us, but it was worth it,” said Christian. “The external auditor was very impressed with the work done and the readiness of our team. We’re thankful for the volunteers who helped us prepare for the audit and we share this achievement with you!”
Oyeyemi Fadairo, a quality control lead at Wilson’s Juice in Nigeria, was looking to gain insights into pertinent issues in the food industry and receive guidance for advancement in her professional career. Oyeyemi decided to join the PFS mentorship program in hopes of being paired with a mentor who could help her navigate her career. Earlier this year, Oyeyemi was matched with Lucy Buteyo, a Senior Quality Engineer at General Mills.
Lucy was raised in Kenya and has spent the past 15+ years working in the food industry, joining General Mills earlier this year. “I joined the mentorship program because I wanted to reciprocate the mentoring opportunities I have been fortunate to receive during my career,” said Lucy. “I wanted to share my knowledge and skills for good and help someone with their personal and professional development.” For the past six months, Oyeyemi and Lucy have been meeting each month to discuss skills and training that make a successful food quality professional. They’ve also been working on a HACCP/food safety plan for Wilson’s Juice together.
“The mentorship has been both impactful and rewarding,” said Oyeyemi. “Through our mentorship, we’ve been able to identify necessary areas of improvement at my company in regards to food safety. I have also noticed defining moments that have helped shape my thinking, which I believe will be fundamental in addressing improvements in the food industry.”
Lucy and Oyeyemi’s mentorship is almost complete, but both plan on continuing to meet after their formal mentorship ends. “My mentee’s level of engagement and willingness to learn made it a very good experience,” Lucy said. “I can’t wait for our relationship to continue.”
Kailey Bullock is a specialty grain merchant and has worked with three Partners in Food Solutions clients: Spice World in Kenya, Supa Seki and Sozi Integrity Trading, both located in Tanzania.
PFS: Tell us about yourself and your role at Ardent Mills.
KB: I developed a passion for agriculture at a young age by growing up in the ag industry in Texas. Now I reside in Colorado and enjoy spending time outdoors. At work you will find me purchasing numerous commodities as a specialty grain merchant for The Annex.
PFS: What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
KB: To help feed the world.
PFS: Why did you choose to volunteer as a Client Lead?
KB: I volunteered on a few projects throughout the past couple of years and really enjoyed it. Being a Client Lead is a slightly different kind of opportunity with PFS.
PFS: What’s your favorite part of volunteering with PFS?
KB: Directly making a positive impact on clients in the food industry who want to make a difference in the world. Through PFS, clients receive guidance through challenges and solutions to better enhance their operation. PFS does a great job putting together a diverse group of volunteers to reach the clients goals for the project.
PFS: If someone is hesitant to volunteer with PFS, what would you say to them?
KB: Self growth revolves a lot around putting yourself out there and trying something new. It is very rewarding when helping someone in need by giving a little bit of your time and expertise. PFS creates a support system for both clients and volunteers by strategically putting teams together.
Sometimes it’s the simple questions that reveal the most important answers. That’s what Ardent Mills’ Bill Boyden discovered while working with Tomato Jos, a tomato processing company in Kangimi, Nigeria. The company was formed to process locally grown tomatoes - in season for only a short time - into paste so that the tomato harvest bounty can be preserved.
Tomato Jos was in the process of building a new warehouse to help expand their business and optimize the space for both raw materials and finished goods. At the same time, a staffing and process optimization project began for their expected growth. That is where Bill became involved. “I literally had no previous knowledge of tomato processing at all. So, Tomato Jos may have wondered why I was asking a lot of simple questions.” he said. “This project helped me to understand the dynamics of the supply chain – the seasonality of the farming activities, limited time from harvest to processing due to no storage, plant operations only scheduled for a few weeks based on their year-one business targeted sales – and the difficulty of creating an efficient staffing plan with all these considerations.”
It was these simple questions that helped lead them to a very customized three-phase staffing plan that would allow them to develop and upskill their staff at the same time that their business was shifting from raw materials to finished product production. “A staffing plan was developed which included several key benefits: team members from the adjacent farming operation could support raw material unloading and maintenance resource needs, inexperienced team members assigned to entry level roles would be provided with learning and development opportunities that would allow them to grow and expand their responsibilities for next phase of roles as the plant progressed. This changes provided a more optimal structure for plant supervision, engineering and laboratory functions,” said Bill.
Ironically, Tomato Jos noted that the real life value of appropriate staffing and systems is evident in how PFS itself works. “Our favorite thing about working with PFS has to be how committed the team is to getting us high-quality volunteers,” said Processing Manager Francis Bulus. “It’s evident in how, at virtually every point, the team communicates its volunteer recruitment plans, philosophy, and status to us, as well as how clearly they often map out our expectations and how these have to align with theirs.”
Tomato Jos management reports that recruitment is currently underway for the second stage of their operations, exactly in accordance with their elegant plan.