In her role as a senior quality assurance officer with DSM, Joell Springer spends the majority of her time performing audits. “I am responsible for auditing suppliers of our raw materials, packaging, lab testing services and more. During a normal year, I am traveling every week and conducting upwards of 60 audits a year,” she said. Since COVID-19 started, Joell’s day-to-day has had to change drastically. “Now I am conducting virtual audits about once a month. When Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) approached me with an opportunity to help Juaben Oil Mills improve their quality management system, I thought it would be a great way for me to spend my extra time and help others while doing what I love.”
Juaben Oil Mills, a palm oil producer in the Ashanti region of Ghana, decided to work toward a food safety certification under the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s Global Quality and Standards program. “It’s very important to us to have an improved quality management system (QMS) as it helps us coordinate our operations to better satisfy our customers and meet all our regulatory requirements,” said Kwame Adomako, sustainability officer at Juaben Oil Mills. “As part of the palm oil supply chain, we would like to see an improvement in our operations. By partnering with PFS we have access to a great deal of resources and expertise to help us tackle the pressing issues as a growing company in the palm oil industry,” he continued.
To date, Joell and the volunteer team have reviewed Juaben Oil Mill’s existing documentation relating to its quality system. After realizing the documents were not up to standard, the project team helped the client develop a new documentation control and management plan. Based on the plan, over 200 policies and forms have been created and reviewed, and the client keeps developing new procedures for their business. “To us, volunteers from PFS are like staff we never hired, but they contribute just as much to our operations in a very special way,” Kwame said. “Thanks to this partnership, we are on our way to being a significant player in the edible oil processing industry.”
PFS: Please share more about yourself.
AH: I studied food engineering and have worked in sales for various food ingredients throughout my career. I enjoy working in multicultural teams and have spent the past several years volunteering with PFS as a Client Lead for a couple of different clients.
PFS: Why did you get involved with PFS?
AH: I joined PFS because I wanted to help and give back a little of what I receive every day.
PFS: How does volunteering with PFS help DSM employees live out their purpose?
AH: I believe volunteering with PFS is a good way for DSM employees to ‘Do Something Meaningful.’ Volunteering is about a one hour a week commitment and you get to use your skills and knowledge to help better the lives of others.
PFS: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned while volunteering with PFS?
AH: You can have a great impact and help others with little time investment.
PFS: If someone is interested in volunteering but may be hesitant to start, what would you say to them?
AH: Just try it! Once you try it for yourself you will see how great the opportunity truly is.
Malnutrition is the cause of nearly half of all deaths in children under five globally. In Kenya, 26 percent of children under five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. To address these public health challenges, companies like Prosoya, a fortified flour company based in Nairobi, are focusing on helping these vulnerable populations by developing fortified products with vital nutrients. “We consider ourselves a social-impact company and our ideology is to fight poverty, unemployment and malnutrition,” said Prosoya CEO Kaburu Muguika. Prosoya makes several nutritious products including fortified Uji lala (ready to drink porridge) and flour, important sources of nutrients for children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and those who suffer from malnutrition. Prosoya works with relief organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) and school feeding programs to distribute their products in several countries including South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Partners in Food Solutions, TechnoServe and USAID have been working collectively with Prosoya on several projects including the development of new marketing and branding materials for their nutritious porridge, designing a factory layout for their new facility and formulating animal feed with locally available ingredients. Bühler Project Manager Nate Jonas serves as a PFS client lead for Prosoya. “I chose to get involved with PFS because I like the idea of collaborating with individuals from other companies and sharing my skills and knowledge to make processes more efficient, more sustainable and less wasteful,” said Nate.
Client leads play an important facilitatory role as project managers for active projects with a given client. They schedule meetings, facilitate calls, keep track of action items and ensure projects reach completion. Not only are they supporting the client, but client leads also help PFS program associates manage their growing client portfolios. Faith Ngila, a PFS program associate in Kenya, manages 40+ client activities at any given time across Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. “Client leads literally make my job doable because it would be impossible for me to be on every meeting and track the progress on each project without their support,” she said. “Nate has gone the extra mile to gain a thorough understanding of Prosoya’s needs and even sacrificed his mornings to attend our 6:00 am bi-weekly calls. Moreover, Nate brings his experience working at Bühler and contributes to the projects he facilitates moving the project forward more efficiently.”
Prosoya recently finished their marketing and branded materials project and is now focused on finishing their new facility layout design project that will allow them to expand their production. “There is a lot of benefit to having volunteers,” said Kaburu. “I am happy they are on board helping us help those at the bottom of the pyramid.”
Equatorial Nuts is a nut and fortified blended flour company based in Murang’a, Kenya. To meet strict fortification standards, staff were hand measuring the precise amount of vitamins and minerals, and adding it to their products for each batch. Although a permitted method of fortification, adding nutrients by hand is extremely time consuming and more prone to errors. Looking to improve their system and automate this flour fortification process, Equatorial Nuts reached out to TechnoServe, USAID and Partners in Food Solutions for guidance.
Carolina Mertzger, a process engineer in the Industrialized Milling Solutions Unit at Bühler, joined the project team to help Equatorial Nuts explore their automated fortification options. “Africa is advancing at a fast-pace, but they’re still behind in some ways. I joined this project because I wanted to share my knowledge in nutrition and fortification and give back to a continent that I am truly inspired by,” said Carolina. “I am originally from Venezuela and Partners in Food Solutions allows me to continue to develop intercultural relationships and connect with people from all over the world.”
Carolina, along with two other PFS volunteers, spent several months learning about Equatorial Nuts’ process, how it was being used, what physical space was available at their facility, and what they were looking to achieve capacity wise with an automated system. Once the team had an understanding of the client’s needs, they started to research options. “The other volunteers and I consulted with our colleagues at our respective companies and we also researched what other US companies were doing and the equipment they were sourcing. One of our biggest challenges was finding a micro dosing system that would fit in the existing system and space available at the client’s facility. After several more months of research and discussions with the project team, we came up with several recommendations that we shared with the client.”
Based on volunteer recommendations, Equatorial Nuts is currently exploring local partners to source the appropriate technology. Once the new, automatic process is in place, Equatorial Nuts plans to increase production and improve the overall quality of their fortified products.
Katharina Hilker is an inspiring leader and Bühler champion for Partners in Food Solutions (PFS). Katharina believes that PFS is a great opportunity for Bühler employees to share their knowledge and have a positive impact by fighting malnutrition in Africa.
PFS: How does volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions
help Bühler employees live out their purpose?
KH: Our goal at Bühler is to balance humanity, nature and
economy in every decision. I believe Partners in Food
Solutions allows employees to live out Bühler’s values
by sharing their knowledge and skills with others, and
helping make food more nutritious, safe and affordable for
communities in Africa and beyond.
PFS: How can volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions
help Bühler employees develop new skills and/or grow as
KH: I think volunteering with PFS shows independent ownership
and ambition to make a difference. Over the years, Bühler
employees have spent thousands of hours volunteering
with PFS therefore increasing their exposure to new cultures
and markets, honing their teamwork skills, and getting
comfortable dealing with ambiguity and different work
PFS: What is your favorite aspect of Partners in Food
KH: I am always impressed with the amount of impact an
individual can have through volunteering with PFS. You
are working with entrepreneurial food companies, growing
their capacity and capabilities, and you’re directly involved
in the knowledge-sharing process. This is such a unique
opportunity to connect the world, improve nutrition, and
make an impact beyond yourself and Bühler.
PFS: If someone is interested in volunteering but may be
hesitant to start, what would you say to them?
KH: We have a great community of PFS volunteers from Bühler
that continues to grow each year and I think that’s proof of
the program’s success. Our volunteers are incredibly humble
and often keep their successes to themselves – they are the
hidden champions in our departments. If you’re interested in
volunteering with PFS, I would say be curious, trust yourself,
trust your knowledge, and be open to speaking to your
colleagues about it.