palm oil fruit

Building Resilience in Emerging Markets


Palm oil is a staple ingredient used across Rwanda and Africa, serving as an essential ingredient in popular dishes like Nigerian jolif rice and Ivorian sticky alloco plantains. Africa consumes significantly more palm oil than it produces, importing nearly 8 million tons of palm oil in 2020 to meet demand. What was once one of the cheaper cooking oils, is now rivaling other oils like sunflower and soy with prices continuing to rise due to food system shocks like supply chain challenges and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This volatility in availability and price puts a spotlight on the challenges of depending on imported cooking oil and emphasizes the need to increase Africa’s own production capacity.

Cooperative Le Palmier based in Kigali, Rwanda is helping ensure African consumers have access to affordable and safe palm oil. Established in 2015, Cooperative Le Palmier produces refined palm oil and sells it to supermarkets in the city as well as local rural markets. “In order to meet the growing demand for cooking oil across Africa, we needed assistance in improving our operations and the safety of our products,” said Mr. Rumiya Kamari, managing director of Cooperative Le Palmier. “Partnering with PFS gave us access to the right experts to do that.”

Yenny Lizarazo, a food safety and quality supervisor, has been working at Cargill for five years and is responsible for ensuring that products that leave the plants meet the food safety standards required by its customers. “My main motivation for volunteering with PFS is to gain an experience that allows me to do something different from my daily work and help others,” said Yenny. “Working with Cooperative Le Palmier gave me the opportunity to learn about oil production. And although the regulations are similar, there were some differences so I had to learn about their processes specifically, which was a fun learning experience for me.”

By working together, Yenny and Cooperative Le Palmier have been able to put together the necessary documentation needed to do fortification of Cooperative Le Palmier’s palm oil and have improved its operations and the safety of its product. “As most of our staff are not skilled enough in GMP and quality control, Yenny has been a great resource with her expertise and experience in developing different documentation which is currently being used in our operations,” said Mr. Rumiya. “We now have a better understanding of the food processing framework compared to before and believe this is a strong base for growth.”

Volunteer headshot

The Power of Mentorship and "Passing it On"


With more than 40 years of experience in the food industry, Principal Scientist Jonathan Griebel knows a thing or two about developing new products. Last year, Jonathan was matched with Victor Ogunwale, a research associate with PFS client Graceco Ltd in Lagos, Nigeria, who was looking for a mentor with experience in research and innovation that could share insights and help him with his professional development. “When PFS asked me to mentor Victor I was pretty excited,” said Jonathan. “I lived in Nigeria when I was growing up and it was exciting to come full circle. I am in the twilight of what has been a very rewarding career in new product development and it is an honor and pleasure to pass on my career learnings to the next generation. Even more special is to do it with someone from Nigeria.”

For the past nine months, Jonathan and Victor have been meeting monthly and have covered topics ranging from consumer insights to new product formulations to brainstorming and ideation techniques. “My mentorship experience with Jonathan has been amazing,” said Victor. “With several decades of experience, Jonathan is just the right person for me. His knowledge, wisdom, and skills have made it easy for me to navigate the challenges that have been coming my way. He has been a really calm, patient, and attentive mentor, having answers to all the questions I have.”

One of Jonathan’s favorite parts of the mentorship so far has been seeing Victor apply some of the things that they’ve discussed in his job. “Victor is an eager learner and is a very bright young man, and this has been a very rewarding experience so far,” said Jonathan. “Someday, I hope I can return to Nigeria and meet Victor in person!”

Market women in front of produce

Volunteers Develop New Gluten-Free Product for Local Consumers


Born out of a love for providing their community with delicious, nutritious, and high-quality food, husband and wife duo Rajan and Priti Marwaha started Sai Energy & Logistics Services in Iringa, Tanzania. Established in 2014, Sai Energy and Logistics Services initially started as a bakery and then later diversified its product portfolio after realizing the potential demand for dairy products like mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, snacks like potato chips and cashew nuts, and other sweet treats.

After years of success in the market and gaining a deeper understanding of local and global consumer trends, Rajan and Priti noticed a need not yet being met locally. “After extensive research, we saw a window of opportunity in adding gluten-free products to our growing product portfolio,” said Rajan. “We learned that approximately 31.8% of Tanzania’s children under the age of 5 years are malnourished and 51.3% of children in our region of Iringa suffer from this. In addition to continuing to provide our current product portfolio of nutritious products, we wanted to develop new specialty breads and biscuits from gluten-free sweet potato flour to help solve the issue of malnutrition and create awareness of how to opt for living a better and healthy life.”

With limited knowledge in the development of gluten-free products, Sai Energy & Logistics Services enlisted the help of TechnoServe, USAID, and PFS to get them started. Joining the project team from Ardent Mills were Bakery Plant Manager Dewaine Schaecher and product developers Jerome Davis and Jacob Mattson. With 60+ combined years of experience in R&D and baked goods, these volunteers made the perfect team to help Sai Energy & Logistics Services bring their new product concept to life.

“Initially our team was a little hesitant in dealing with such highly experienced individuals on the project team,” said Rajan. “But by the end of the project, the transfer of knowledge, especially on the technology behind making these products, and the ease of communication between us and the project team became our favorite part of the project!” Rajan said that his team learned a lot from the Ardent Mills volunteers including how to measure the right proportion of ingredients, how to improve product shelf-life through monitoring pH levels of doughs, the right methods of mixing ingredients, and innovations and alterations of their existing methods.

Rajan said the gluten-free sweet potato project for biscuits has reached the final stage and has been accepted by consumers so they are now are developing strategies to upscale production. Additionally, the company is working on the product’s packaging design and they hope to launch the new product later this month.

Eric Flanagan head shot image



Q+A with Cargill's Eric Flanagan


Please share a little about yourself and your role at Cargill.
I work in the Growth Ventures team for Cargill Protein-North America (CPNA) where I am the Director of Emerging Products and Solutions. My role focuses on identifying, incubating, and commercializing new business opportunities in emerging spaces like carbon, digital, and e-commerce. I originally joined Cargill in 2017 straight out of business school with the corporate strategy team. I have also worked in digital innovation and startup partnerships for Cargill-Digital Foundry and in strategy/mergers & acquisitions for CPNA.

What was your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
Two factors motivated my interest in PFS once the opportunity was presented. First, I studied international development in undergrad and studied abroad in South Africa where I had the opportunity to support community development through entrepreneurship in a township near Stellenbosch. PFS’ dedication to capacity-building in Africa felt like a spiritual continuation of this experience.

The second motivation was my fairly recent entry into Cargill via its corporate strategy team in 2017 (around when I joined PFS). I was new to both the functional role, strategy development, and food/ag, and saw volunteering with PFS as a development opportunity that would help me learn more about project management and the industry.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with PFS? 

The two companies I have worked with (Kentaste and Full Spoon Limited) both operate in markets where Cargill has little or no presence (coconuts and peanuts, respectively), so it has been fun to learn more about both from the client company’s founders. In addition, both clients have needed help with food safety projects, which is a new functional space for me to learn at a high level.

What would you say to a colleague who is interested in volunteering with PFS, but hesitant to start?
Dive in! There are a lot of companies with projects that need the type of food/ag expertise companies like Cargill can provide.

corn in women's hands

Partnership Brings Improved Food Safety


Located on the west coast of Africa in Ghana, Agicare, a maize processing company, dreams of becoming the preferred manufacturer and distributor of livestock and poultry feed in West Africa. Since 1968, Agricare has been producing feed using locally grown maize from hundreds of farmers to supply the local poultry and livestock industry. But, in order to grow their business and sell their products throughout the West African market, Agricare needed to improve its quality management systems and gain an advanced food safety certification.

“Obtaining a HACCP Certification is an important step in growing our business,” said Alice Tuvor, quality assurance manager at Agricare. “It will ensure our customers that our products are safe and high-quality for both domestic consumption and export and will help us create more jobs and provide more market space for local corn farmers.” Supporting Agricare in this endeavor was Ardent Mills Technical Service Manager Stephanie McIlwain. Stephanie has worked at Ardent Mills for ten years in various quality and operations roles and has had the pleasure of working at seven different mills. She currently works with Ardent Mills customers on the technical solutions team. “I really wanted to use my skills to benefit food companies with limited access to resources, and be a part of improving the quality and safety of the global food supply,” said Stephanie. “I was glad I could be a part of Agricare’s journey.”

Guided by Stephanie’s support, Agricare has reviewed implementation methods for critical control point monitoring, identified hazards from a risk assessment, conducted a standard operations procedures review, and added an implementation process. “It’s important for us to partner with Partners in Food Solutions because of the access to additional professional experience and expertise,” said Alice. “My favorite part of the project was simply learning from the volunteer team.”

In addition to serving others and improving the safety and quality of the global food system, Stephanie said she also learned something new. “Working with a diverse group of people and learning about Agricare’s operations was my favorite part of the experience,” said Stephanie. “I enjoyed getting to meet new people from other companies, and hearing other people’s ideas and perspectives is always interesting.”

Since the project ended in April, Agricare is now preparing for its HACCP audit which will take place this summer. With a better understanding of their controls and monitoring system, and all SOPs documented, Agricare feels confident that they will pass their upcoming HACCP audit.