“I never thought I would collaborate with Kenyans and Tanzanians, those countries seemed so distant,” said Henrique Oliveira, a marketing director at Bühler. “Now my perspective of the African continent has changed completely.” Motivated by his interests in supporting small businesses in developing countries, Henrique wanted to use his skills for good and volunteer his time with PFS. In partnership with international development nonprofit TechnoServe and USAID, the development agency of the US government, PFS links highly skilled volunteers with entrepreneurial food companies in Africa in need of technical and business expertise. “I am from Brazil, a country that has experienced development disparities and have seen first-hand the importance of having access to knowledge and expertise,” said Henrique. Over the past year, Henrique has been volunteering as a project manager (client lead) with Profate Investments Limited, a family-owned dairy farm located in Tanzania, overseeing project teams, managing project timelines, and acting as a point of contact for the volunteer teams and client. “It’s a journey, a challenge, and an eye-opening experience,” he said.
Through his role as Client Lead, Henrique has developed a relationship with Profate Founder and Managing Director Feddy Tesha. “Henrique has been very helpful and professional in linking and coordinating volunteer expertise to help us,” she said. “Our partnership with PFS volunteers has been extremely helpful and we want to thank Henrique for a great job so far!”
Henrique’s favorite part of serving as a Client Lead is working with the people. Henrique also said that the Client Lead role helped him improve his project management skills and that they have carried over to his work at Bühler. “I’ve been able to more effectively translate technical advice to non-expert audiences, narrow down project steps and scope, and learned how to celebrate the wins and overcome project challenges.”
In collaboration with volunteers from Hershey and DSM, Henrique is supporting several projects with Profate including a brand review project and business plan project. “Through our group project work, I learned that Profate is educating Tanzanians about how to consume mozzarella cheese. I grew up eating mozzarella cheese and never thought someone in the world wouldn’t know how to eat it. Being a part of the PFS projects has forced me to expand my thinking and perspectives in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
In addition to serving as the volunteer Client Lead with Profate, Henrique has also served as the Client Lead for Simply Foods in Kenya. “Volunteering with PFS is an enriching experience that pushes you outside your comfort zone. Despite the challenges, developing relationships with other volunteers from around the world and helping the client improve their businesses makes it worth it!”
David Montgomery joined DSM in January 2021 as an Account Manager in Fresh Dairy for North America. In his role, David supports sales through commercial planning, training, and customer trials.
What was your main motivation for volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions?
I came to DSM, in part, because of the partnership with Partners in Food Solutions (PFS). I am passionate about creating sustainable food systems, and I believe I could have the most impact by volunteering with an organization with these values.
Are there any specific skills you’ve improved or developed while volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions?
The biggest skill I’ve been honing is active listening. The pace of the PFS projects and the needs of the clients are really unique compared to my work with customers in the USA. It’s been a meaningful experience to learn how to listen deeply and intently, and challenge my assumptions. I’ve even been able to transfer these newly honed skills to my day job.
What is your favorite part of volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions? My favorite part of volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions is working with people from all over the world, including both the client companies and other PFS volunteers. Everyone brings their own skills and diverse perspectives to the table and it’s rewarding to collaborate with them all to solve global food challenges.
In 2016, PFS simultaneously noticed two things in Africa: a need to increase capacity in addressing technical challenges at client companies and recent college graduates’ need for professional work experience. This observation led to the development of the PFS Apprenticeship Program. In 2016, PFS started with two apprentices in Ghana and has since grown to over 100 apprentices across seven African countries. Last June, PFS hosted its first Food Safety and Quality Apprentice Workshop with the goal of training past and present apprentices on safety standards in the food industry. Part of the workshop included a professional panel of food safety experts, including Weronika Strzyzowska, a quality specialist at DSM. “The workshop afforded me the opportunity to learn directly from a seasoned professional,” said an apprentice who attended the workshop. “[The volunteer panelists] provided guidance on how to identify activities/tasks that should be performed to achieve optimal food safety.”
PFS Human Capital Services Lead Yvonne Hormenoo said, “The panel of volunteer experts was very valuable.” She added that the panelists spoke to performance measurements, operations and management reviews, standard operating procedures, problem-solving techniques, and more. “Many of the attendees said the panel discussion was the highlight of the four-day workshop!”
In an effort to address technical challenges at food processing companies in Africa, PFS developed an apprentice program that could help improve food security and give recent graduates professional work experience. Over the years, this program has grown to over 100 apprentices across seven African countries. To further promote. networking and resource sharing between apprentices, PFS needed advice on how to design an effective alumni network. With the help of six management trainees from Bühler, PFS was able to develop the program in 2021 and give recently graduated apprentices an opportunity to stay connected. The volunteers provided key insights into successful alumni programs and shared suggestions on engagement strategies such as communication platforms, content, and more.
Even at the highest level, mentorship matters. From apprentices to CEOs, mentoring can make a huge difference in an individual, and company’s, trajectory. Over the past year, Bühler President and CEO of North America Andy Sharpe has been mentoring PFS client Managing Director Miraj Shah. Miraj runs Crofts Limited in Kenya, one of the largest avocado oil producers in Africa. “The mentorship has been great,” said Andy. “We’ve had plenty of great discussions from culture to business growth.” The PFS Mentorship Program is a great opportunity to connect with food industry leaders one on one and support African entrepreneurs. To date, the PFS Mentorship Program has connected over 150 individuals and supported both mentors and mentees in reaching their personal and professional goals.