Simon Hailu, food processing specialist for the PFS Alliance Program in Ethiopia, says now that he's been to Switzerland, he finally knows how it feels to be the milk processed by his dairy clients in Ethiopia!
It's because he's never been quite that cold! At the end of 2018, PFS staff joined field staff from Ethiopia, Zambia, and Malawi on a visit to PFS corporate partners in Switzerland and the Netherlands. The team toured processing facilities at Bühler, DSM, Cargill and also General Mills joint venture Cereal Partners Worldwide. They had the opportunity to meet with current and prospective volunteers, and to share about their work supporting food processors in home countries. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to bring the field experience to life at our European partners, connect with our amazing volunteers, and help our field staff understand the capabilities of our partners and volunteers.
As a bonus, we got to enjoy the holiday season in Europe and our field staff had the chance to take a day trip to the Alps and see snow for the first time! The members of the team summed the trip up nicely - it was a chilly but enlightening experience!
Taste of General Mills blog features our decade of work with our founding partner and the impact made in Africa and beyond. Read the story and watch the video HERE.
Today we celebrate you, our volunteers. Thank you for making what we do possible! Click on the image to see a video appreciation.
In 2008, when Indra Mehrotra was asked to bring a nutrition perspective to the early-stage PFS at General Mills, she was immediately hooked on the project.
“What a novel idea,” she remembers thinking. “I was totally enamored.” A decade later, and now working for another Partners in Food Solutions corporate partner, Cargill, she’s still captivated.
“I remember when we started, the idea of technology transfer was so exciting. But the enigma was how we were going to actually do it.” She says the entrepreneurial spirit was part of PFS right from the start, but challenges were presented by different time zones, geographies and the technology, which at the time wasn’t very good at bridging the distance between volunteers and clients. “Phone connections to remote parts of Africa were a real challenge. Once internet connections improved and we were able to better use email, it became a lot easier in so many ways.”
She says today the distance between clients and volunteers — in language, technology and culture — has been diminished considerably because communication is now easier and faster. Plus, the process and tools have been refined. “We’ve evolved
to a much more streamlined process where volunteers can get right to work helping our clients solve problems,” she says.
What keeps Indra engaged is the one thing that hasn’t changed in the past ten years — the focus on safe, nutritious, affordable food and economic development in Africa. “I feel it’s my professional responsibility to do this work,” she says.
Indra has a background in nutrition and now serves as Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Cargill. “Knowing the impact that nutrition has on health, it’s just something
I personally feel I need to do.” And today she says, “I think the focus is evolving from ‘food security’ to ‘nutrition security’ and that’s important.”
“I always believed that we could make an impact, and now we can see the results. I can see the changes made by our clients as a result of the knowledge volunteers have imparted,” she said, “Most of our client companies have benefited because they really just needed a boost.”
And it is that boost that she says is exactly what is needed on a continent that has the potential to not only feed itself, but help feed the rest of the world. “We have to unlock the potential of Africa. It must be brought into the system in order to solve global food insecurity.”
Over the past year, the PFS Direct Model - a program where we directly employ food technologists in Africa - has grown considerably. We now have food techs in six countries and in October they were all able to visit our PFS office in Minnesota for two weeks of training and teamwork.
One of the most significant parts of the trip for the field team - Daouda Sangare (Cote d'Ivoire), Christian Dedzo (Ghana), Vivian Maduekeh (Nigeria), Johnson Kiragu (Kenya), Edwin Gafa (Uganda) and Daniel Mwape (Zambia) - was the opportunity to visit all six of our corporate partners during their time in the US. These visits exposed the team to the vast capabilities of our corporate partners, provided unparalleled learning, and gave them the opportunity to appreciate the breadth and depth of expertise available to them and the African food companies they serve. PFS co-founder John Mendesh told the team “There’s not a problem our clients face that one of our corporate partners hasn’t come up against already.” Thanks to all of our corporate partners for hosting our team!
Another important aspect of the trip was the opportunity for the whole field team to be together in person. They were able to share their own experiences and best practices in sourcing clients, relationship management with clients and volunteers, scoping projects and fine-tuning some of the tools they are using in the field.
Other highlights included meeting with many of the volunteers in person for the first time and attending a Minnesota Wild hockey game. By the end of the two weeks, each of our food techs left with new knowledge and a feeling that they are an integral part of a larger community working hard to improve food security and quality in Africa and beyond.