In 2019, Aziz Rehman joined Partners in Food Solutions as a new volunteer. While looking for an opportunity to get involved, he was introduced to Rumishael and Daughters, a grain- based breakfast food start-up based in Tanzania. “I knew I wanted to work with Rumishael and Daughters because I felt like there was a lot for us to learn from one another,” said Aziz. “Volunteering as their Client Lead, I’ve had the opportunity to see their company grow from a small start up in 2019, to introducing their first product to market, to now – expanding their product portfolio after much success.”
Robyn and Rumishael, founders of Rumishael and Daughters, dreamt of starting a family-owned business that made a positive impact on the local Tanzanian community. After 13 years of living in New Zealand, the husband and wife duo made their dreams a reality and moved back to Tanzania with their three children to start Rumishael and Daughters. “We spent years ideating what Rumishael and Daughters could be and ultimately decided that we wanted our company to produce nutritious, tasty and affordable products made with locally-grown grains. We’re really fortunate to have Partners in Food Solutions and their volunteers as advisors. As a start-up, having PFS volunteers who selflessly offer their precious time and expertise to ensure our success, especially given how young and fragile our company is, has been absolutely invaluable and helped develop our confidence,” said Robyn.
As a Client Lead, Aziz’s role is to support Rumishael and Daughters by helping manage their project portfolio. Since Aziz started in the role, he has overseen more than seven projects ensuring the projects go smoothly and reach their objectives. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Rumishael and Daughters,” said Aziz. “I’ve learned so much about product development and marketing, and have seen Rumishael and Daughters reach milestone after milestone. This has been a great opportunity to improve people’s lives across Africa while working remotely.”
Rumishael and Daughters is currently working on some new projects including developing new products and creating a marketing strategy. Furthermore, Rumishael and Daughters has started the process of partnering with the World Food Programme and will produce super cereals for them in the near future. “Partners in Food Solutions and Aziz have helped us make Rumishael and Daughter’s journey shorter, straighter and smoother. We really enjoy and appreciate working with Aziz. He is a constant source of support to us. He is committed to our success and we are incredibly grateful. When our factory laboratory is more sophisticated and worthy of a name, we plan to name it the ‘Aziz Rehman Laboratory’.”
PFS: Please tell us more about yourself.
GF: My name is Gloria Frauenfelder and I am a global procurement finance lead at Hershey. I was born in Kenya and lived there until I was 20 years old. When I married my husband, who is Swiss, I decided to move to Switzerland. I have lived here now for around 25 years and have two children in their early twenties.
PFS: Why did you decide to get involved with PFS?
GF: Being born and raised in Kenya, I have a deep understanding of the struggles many companies there face. It can be very difficult to find the right expertise that would help companies move forward. I got involved with PFS because I think it’s important to share the things I have learned throughout my career with companies who need the additional support. For example, I am currently on a project that is helping a client understand cost structures for their products. By sharing my knowledge in this space, I am helping them increase their capacity and hopefully it’ll lead to their future growth.
PFS: What is your favorite part about volunteering with PFS?
GF: I really like that employees with any level of expertise can have an impact on a project. We all learn from one another, tackle the project from different angles, and bring the best solution to the client through a collaborative approach.
PFS: What would you say to a colleague who may be interested in volunteering with PFS, but is hesitant to start?
GF: I encourage anyone interested in PFS to volunteer! You may think that you can’t help with a project because you’re not an “expert” but, I can assure you, the team environment at PFS really brings out the best of everyone and together you can help the client and expand your own knowledge in the process.
Located in Lusaka, Jesuit Development Farm (JDF) grows various organic vegetables like lettuce, onions, garlic and herbs such as moringa. Moringa, a plant rich in antioxidants and known for its purported medicinal properties, can be an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals. To meet the increased demand for the plant, JDF looked to Partners in Food Solutions for help with increasing their capacity and identifying inefficiencies in their solar tunnel drying system. “In our local community, we do not always have access to experts with the experience PFS volunteers have,” said Father Tadeusz, managing director of JDF. “The support of PFS and its volunteers helps us avoid many problems.”
Will Suhring, a process engineer at Hershey with experience in developing, installing and activating new equipment and processing systems, offered to help JDF and share his knowledge in this area. “One of my favorite aspects of PFS is that it connects creative, entrepreneurial people from all across the world to collaborate on projects which are of benefit to everyone involved,” said Will. “I enjoy the creative problem solving aspect of the project due to working under different constraints than projects in my corporate role. It’s also great knowing that successful projects bring jobs, better food security, and many other benefits to the clients and their communities.”
After reviewing feedback from JDF about what they liked and didn’t like about their existing drying system, Will and the project team came up with several modifications that would improve their efficiency. “We suggested adding vents at each end of the tunnel to encourage air flow and remove moisture because it would be a meaningful improvement to their drying process and fit within their local materials and building constraints. We also suggested that they include plenty of room for handwashing stations and captive shoe storage, along with tables to hold wash basins at a comfortable height, because that would improve food safety and quality, and make the operation more comfortable and efficient for the workers.”
JDF plans to utilize the volunteer’s recommendations to improve their current solar tunnel drying system and to help construct their new dryer. “I really enjoy our interactions with PFS volunteers,” said Fr. Tadeusz. “During the process of developing a new solar tunnel model I learned more about food safety, efficient drying processes and how to better utilize the available space. I am grateful for everyone involved in this project and for their commitment and support of my efforts.”
Kris Zamora is an in-house creative at Hershey and spends his days supporting internal teams by developing content from animated advertisements to conceptualizing new product ideas. Motivated by his desire to make a greater impact, Kris joined a brand design project with Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP) client Rut & Hirut that allowed him to learn new skills and give back in a meaningful way. Rut & Hirut is a women-owned dairy processing company located outside Addis Ababa that produces various products including pasteurized milk, yogurt, cheese and butter. The company was established with the goal of improving the livelihoods of farmers, and has supported hundreds of female dairy farmers over the years. “All the work that was done with this volunteer project not only benefits the business owners, but also the broader community,” Kris said. “Knowing my work made a difference for someone else’s life directly is all that I could ever ask for.”
In collaboration with PFS, TechnoServe and USAID, Kris worked on creating an effective design strategy that would allow Rut & Hirut to penetrate the bottom of the pyramid market and increase sales. “I can’t speak Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia) nor can I read or write it,” said Kris. “Working on the packaging design for this project did require a little bit of patience on my end given there was a quick learning curve.” This project not only pushed Kris outside his comfort zone, but allowed him to build upon his communication and cross-cultural competencies. “When I was working on the logo rebrand, part of the logo had a small heart shape icon in it. I had to ask myself ‘Is a heart shape universally recognizable? Does a heart shape mean something different in other cultures?’ This is something I normally do not need to consider in my day job and is something that I believe will make me a better overall designer and creative.”
Kris’ favorite part of the project was during the packaging design concept phase for Rut & Hirut’s milk products. Initially, Rut & Hirut chose the design concept that most closely reflected their current brand look. Before making any final decisions, Rut & Hirut decided to go out into the community and share the design concepts with the locals to see which designs they liked the most. “I thought this was a smart and strategic decision by Rut & Hirut to get the local community’s input on the design,” said Kris. “Ultimately, after receiving feedback from locals, Rut & Hirut decided to go with the bolder packaging design concept. This look was more aligned with what their current and future consumers wanted and brought some valuable insights into our packaging design project.” Since the project closed last year, the product in its new packaging design has entered the market. Rut & Hirut have reported that consumers are finding the improved packaging to be very attractive.
*The Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP) is helping unlock the potential of the food processing sector by providing technical assistance and sector-wide training to food processors in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. AINFP is co-funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and by Partners in Food Solutions, through private funding and in-kind contributions of employee time from its corporate partners. TechnoServe is leading project implementation on the ground.
Carol Jeffrey-Smith has been a volunteer with PFS since 2016 and has been involved in six volunteer activities. She also serves as a PFS champion and is a valuable part of the Hershey-PFS partnership.
PFS: Please tell us more about yourself.
CJS: I have worked in Information Services at Hershey for nine years in both Canada & the US. I have been a long-time volunteer at PFS, mostly as a Client Lead. I enjoy bringing together volunteers and clients to complete specific projects. I have been very fortunate to work with five different clients in this role. I have learned so much from all the fantastic people involved in PFS projects and it has been an amazing experience!
PFS: What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
CJS: My main motivation for volunteering with PFS is the opportunity to meet new people, learn from other volunteers and watch the clients grow through this experience.
PFS: You’ve taken on several Client Lead roles throughout the years, what’s your favorite part about being a Client Lead?
CJS: The client’s energy and dedication to growing their business while managing a busy operation. It is a real privilege to share in the client’s journey. I am currently the Client Lead for Assisi Foods in Ghana and their leaders have demonstrated terrific focus and initiative in achieving key goals. They have a clear vision for Assisi Foods and I am delighted at the opportunity to make a small contribution towards their continued success.
PFS: How does it make you feel knowing Hershey has this volunteer opportunity for its employees?
CJS: Proud. As a company, Hershey is committed to supporting volunteer initiatives that create real value and have a tangible impact. I am very happy to be part of an organization that “walks the walk and talks the talk.”