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!”

Girl carrying a basket and smiling

Ensuring Safe Cocoa For All


Along the west coast of Africa, where more than 2 million smallholder farmers are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply, cocoa farming is a way of life. Despite being one of the world’s top producers of cocoa, most of the value is created after the cocoa beans reach the Global North for additional processing. To supply consumers with safe and delicious cocoa, and add value on the continent of Africa, Ivorian entrepreneur Olga Yenou launched Tafissa, or “to lick your fingers” in the Baoulé language, a cocoa processing company based in Côte d’Ivôire.

“The smile of a child or the satisfaction of an older person after consuming our chocolate is priceless in our eyes,” said Olga. “Our vision is to see Côte d’Ivoire become the leading cocoa processor and consumer.” In order to achieve their goal of sharing their chocolate with everyone, Olga reached out to Partners in Food Solutions and their network of expert volunteers for support in improving their food safety systems. “HACCP training is very important to us because it ensures that Tafissa chocolate is manufactured safely and our customers can feel good about purchasing from us. Partnering with PFS and its volunteers enabled us to put together a program that was just right for us.”

For several months, a team of project volunteers from Cargill, Hershey, Ardent Mills, and General Mills worked together to prepare Tafissa for future HACCP audits, including training their operators. “The whole project was very pleasant,” said Olga. “We learned a lot about different hazard assessment methods and our need to make some equipment purchases such as metal detectors. What we liked most was when the volunteers shared their various food safety experiences and the fellowship we had throughout the project.”

Tafissa’s journey to achieving its food safety goals continues. Tafissa is currently looking at certain equipment investments, guided by volunteer recommendations, and is in the process of making improvements to its processing systems to prepare for a future HACCP audit.

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.

kent juliot headshot

Q+A with Ardent Mills' Kent Juliot


Please share a little about yourself and your role at Ardent Mills.My name is Kent Juliot and I have had the privilege of serving
Ardent Mills as Vice President of Research, Quality, and Tech
Services. I have 37 years of experience in the food industry within
quality, food safety, food production, and research on everything
from soup to nuts.

How does volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions help
Ardent Mills employees live out their purpose?

Ardent Mills’ four core values are trust, serving, simplicity, and
safety. While PFS helps us accomplish all of these, ‘serving’ stands
out and our teammates have embraced volunteering for PFS
projects as one of the key ways of living out our value of service.

How can volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions help
Ardent Mills employees develop new skills and/or grow as a

Our volunteers have so many stories of how they grew through
their PFS experience. It is always fun to hear from other team
members about what they’ve learned from other volunteers at
other companies that would not be possible without being part of
PFS. Others tell stories of gaining self-confidence, helping others in
Africa, and gaining new skills that they contribute to their day-to-day
job. Growth in technical and/or people skills is almost guaranteed
when signing up as a PFS volunteer.

If someone is interested in volunteering but may be hesitant to
start, what would you say to them?

If you are right out of school or have decades of experience, your
knowledge can help someone in Africa. If you are willing, there is a
spot for you at PFS. Even if you may not be an “expert”, someone
else on the project team may know or someone in your network
may be able to help. Just jump in!

What is the most important thing about Partners in Food

PFS is a practical way to share knowledge that serves others. With
PFS, you get to share your skills and see exactly what the impact is.
It is so much more rewarding to see for yourself that you have made
a direct impact in people’s lives that need help.