My first plane ride was to the Austrian Alps (Bregenz) in my junior year abroad. Newsflash: I knew as I landed in Austria I was destined to have an international career. Living with a family abroad at Wagner College, opened my eyes, mind and heart to explore other people, cultures, music and yes, economic drivers. Sure enough four weeks after graduating from college, I was on my way to Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English as a Second Language. I so enjoyed the vibrancy of Cameroon, I took a contract with the Ministry of Education as pedagogy advisor for three additional years.
Niger was my next stop on my professional train ride: Associate Peace Corps director for Education and Youth Development and Acting Peace Corps Director. Youth leadership work was familiar to me as I had much in college as a youth counselor and teaching French and German in secondary schools in Philadelphia.
My first job after Peace Corps was with USDA/Foreign Agriculture Service focusing on U.S agriculture trade policies in South and Central America. Attending John Hopkins School of International Studies simultaneously, I migrated from trade policy and number crunching to what must have been the best job in the U.S. government-- agribusiness information dissemination, organizing U.S trade and investment missions and agriculture marketing development for U.S. companies in Central America and the Caribbean—aka—the Caribbean Basin Initiative.
My academic focus at SAIS, Development Economics, positioned me to better understand and explore some of the economic theories we read, discussed in class. USDA’s work and training led me to USAID/Africa Bureau, but this time in the agriculture sector in the old Technical Resources offices. There I designed and monitored projects in Morocco, Madagascar, Uganda and Burundi while developing strategic economic growth plans in just about every U.S. AID African mission. Parallel to my African work experience, back in DC, I was a founding member of the Leadership Enrichment Affirmation Project which targeted at risk African American urban young men, 8 to 18 years old who needed mentorship and counseling.
With the advent of Initiative to End Hunger in Africa, agribusiness and science based enterprise development-- between 1994 and 2008 afforded me the opportunity to work directly with U.S. companies in the Sustainable Tree Crops Project (coffee, cocoa, cashew) and the Agribusiness in Sustainable African Plant Products(ASNAPP) project (hibiscus, griffonia, rooibos, shea). Both projects continue today with U.S and international private sector technology and marketing leadership and funding.
In 2008, returning to USDA/FAS was a radical shift in profession direction: I worked in a liaison office between the Office of the Secretary and African ministries of agriculture and regional economic communities. Focusing primarily on the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), bilateral agriculture trade agreements,
Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP) and the fight to end hunger, poverty and malnutrition through Global Food Security, I learned the importance of resilience strategies, smart agriculture, cross sector programming and the role of women in combating man made and cyclical food insecurity and environmental shocks. I ended my government career in Burkina Faso as director for agriculture and rural economy at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Since 2011, I created a small business, Agriculture Results Inc, providing technical services to: International Water Management Institute, Winrock International, ASNAPP, USAID/Senegal and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET). Yes, it has been a thrilling ride from my first Swiss Air flight to the Austrian Alps to serving the interest of small scale agriculture producers emphasizing along the way the importance of human and institutional capital -- women, youth, universities and civil society organizations.