Speakers for Cracking the Nut 2016

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Jessica Alderman
Vice President of Women's Empowerment, Envirofit International
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Jessica manages Envirofit’s global communications, public relations and marketing, and founded Envirofit’s women’s empowerment programs. She works closely with Envirofit’s subsidiaries and diverse international partners to create and implement marketing campaigns and women’s empowerment programs that can be adapted and delivered locally. With over eight years of international experience, she has managed projects in Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Laos, Israel and Palestine. Jessica received her Master of Public Health, specializing in Health Communication, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Luis Alvarez Welchez
Manager - ProSoils Program, Catholic Relief Services
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Luis is a soil scientist with over 30 years of field experience in Latin America, including 23 years with FAO. With expertise in soil management and restoration, Luis currently works for Catholic Relief Services in Honduras, where he leads field activities and action research for the Water-Smart Agriculture Initiative, funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He also serves on the Technical Committee of the Global Soils Partnership for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. Luis has a Master’s in Soil Science from the University of Georgia.


Jessenia Angulo
Group Sustainability Manager, Natural Habitat
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Jessenia is the Group Sustainability Manager at Natural Habitats group, where she is accountable for the social and environmental, as well as economic, value creation of the group. She has designed the group’s sustainability strategy, and structured the sustainability teams to guarantee the correct implementations of fair trade and organic standard in all the countries where the group operates. Jessenia holds a bachelors in International Business management and Agriculture Economics, as well as an International MBA. She speaks English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.

Brian App
Project Director, Chemonics International
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Brian is a natural resource management expert with 15 years of experience in biodiversity conservation and community-based natural resource management. As deputy chief of party for the USAID-funded Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program, he oversaw the project’s climate change adaptation efforts, including in conservation agriculture. He has also implemented forestry conservation and agriculture programs in Cameroon and Ghana. Brian holds a master’s degree in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana.


Américo Ramirez Arevalo
General Manager, Indulpasa S.A.
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Américo is the General Manager of INDULPASA, a PAMA-certified palm processor based in the Peruvian jungle that sources from a farmer association representing 600 smallholders. He has an academic background in economics, social investment, and food and agribusiness management. With 20 years of experience in commercial banking, agricultural finance, and international development cooperation, he has acted as chief technical advisor for companies such as Chemonics, TechnoServe, and Agrofinanzas SAC.

Eelco Baan
Global Coordinator of Sustainable Markets, SNV USA
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Eelco is SNV’s Global Coordinator of Sustainable Markets. Eelco has over 20 years of experience in finance, focusing on inclusive agricultural value chain development, agricultural commercialization, and income generation for small and medium enterprises, often in rural areas. He has also worked extensively in advisory positions, with a focus on micro-finance in the developing world. Mr. Baan holds a Master of Science in Business Administration from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in The Netherlands.


Jennie Baron
Theme Leader: Agriculture and Water Management, International Water Management Institute
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Jennie is the Research Theme Leader of “Sustainable Agricultural Water Management” at International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Over the last 20 years, she has worked with water and land management for realizing rainfed and irrigated potential for sustainable development of smallholder farming systems through research, policy and capacity strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Jennie holds a PhD from Stockholm University and MSc from SLU, Uppsala, Sweden

Deborah Barry
Policy Director - Water and Soils Program, Catholic Relief Services
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Deborah is the Policy Director of the Agriculture, Soils and Water Program for Catholic Relief Services for Mesoamerica. She has over thirty years of experience working on smallholder agriculture and community forestry with a concern for natural resource management and governance systems. She is an economic and cultural geographer (UC, Berkeley) and Masters (CIESAS, Mexico), who has lived most of her life in this region.


Eduardo Bastos
Government Affairs Director, Dow Chemicals
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Eduardo began his career at Dow in the role of Food Security Leader for the Latin America Conservation Council and later transitioned into Dow Brazil Government Affairs Leader before assuming his current position. Previously, he served as President of the Brazilian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Sustainability Director at the Brazilian Agribusiness Association. Eduardo has a MBA from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, a B.S.B. from Fundação Dom Cabral and an Agronomist Engineering degree from the University of São Paulo.

Shankar Bhattarai
CSA Advisor, SNV Nepal
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Shankar is a rural and agricultural development professional with expertise in climate change and adaptation design strategy with a concentration on rural livelihoods across the plains, middle-hills and high-mountains in Nepal. Currently, he leads a climate-smart agriculture (CSA) project at SNV Nepal as an Advisor. Since 2001, he has worked for range of organizations including NGOs, INGOs, local governments and agriculture colleges. He holds a Master of Economics and Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Tribhuvan University Nepal.


Roland Bunch
Independent Consultant,
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Roland Bunch has worked as a consultant in agricultural development in over 50 nations. In 1982, he published Two Ears of Corn, which was translated into ten languages and became an all-time best-seller in agricultural development. Since then, he has become the leading proponent of green manure/cover crops around the world. Roland has been nominated for the Global 500 Award, the U.S. President’s End the Hunger Prize, and the World Food Prize.

Anita Campion
President & CEO, Connexus Corporation
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Anita is President and CEO of global consulting firm, Connexus Corporation. She is an agricultural finance specialist with 25 years of experience in international finance and private sector development. Anita oversees Connexus' work on USAID's FAIDA in Afghanistan and FinGAP in Ghana, as well as public private partnerships in Africa and Latin America. Previously, Anita managed Chemonics' Financial Services Indefinite Quantity Contract and multiple projects.


Daniel Carrara
Executive Secretary, SENAR
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Daniel is the National Executive Secretary of the Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Rural (SENAR), the leading national technical assistance program in Brazil that provides training and capacity building to over 30,000 farmers. He has held various high-level positions in SENAR since 2001 and has also served as the General Superintendent of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA). Daniel has a degree in Agricultural Engineering with a post-graduate in Rural Administration.

Daniele Cesano
Technical Coordinator, Adapta Sertão
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Daniele is co-founder and Technical Coordinator of Adapta Sertão, a coalition of organizations that collaborate to implement climate resilience strategies in family farmers’ communities of the semi-arid region of Brazil. Previously, he has worked as a private sector consultant on renewable energy, green buildings and carbon markets in Brazil, USA and Italy. He holds a PhD in Earth and Water Resources from the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. He is a Giorgio Ruffolo Sustainability Science Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.


Ephraim Chabayanzara
Regional Technical Advisor, Agricultural Livelihoods & Environment, Catholic Relief Services
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Ephraim has 30 years of experience in agricultural development. With an MSc degree in agricultural development, his career spans across extension services, policy research, value chain financing, market linkages and program technical assistance. He currently coordinates the CRS East Africa regional office initiatives in the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance.

Michael E. Cote
Senior Climate Adaptation Specialist, Engility
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Michael is a Senior Climate Adaptation Specialist with International Resources Group (IRG), an Engility Company. He specializes in integrating adaptation options in developing country contexts. Most recently he coordinated adaptation projects in Kazakhstan, Nepal, Peru and Vietnam. Michael is a member of USAID Global Climate Change Office’s National Adaptation Plan working group, and was an Expert Reviewer on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Working Group II. He appreciates a good cup of coffee.


Jorge Crespo-Velasco
Advisor, Multiagro S.A.
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Jorge is currently an Advisor for Multiagro S.A. He has experience in both the private and public sectors, previously serving as President of the microfinance institution, Fundación Sembrar, and as Bolivian Minister of International Commerce and Investment. Jorge was also a member of the Board of Executive Directors of the Inter-American Development Bank. He holds a BSc in Business and Public Administration from the University of Maryland and an MSc in International Economic Relations from the London School of Economics.

Todd Crosby
Director of Technical Services, NCBA CLUSA
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Todd is Chief of Party for Yaajeende, USAID/Senegal’s primary food security project that is run by NCBA CLUSA. Todd holds an MA in Sociology from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years of experience working in community development in West Africa, in particular Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Ghana. His technical expertise focuses on the use of private sector business approaches such as social marketing, social franchising, microcredit and value chain methodologies for development.


Legesse Dadi
Agriculture/Natural Resources Management Program Manager, Catholic Relief Services
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Legesse is an Agricultural Economist with more than 30 years of experience in research and development. His areas of research and experience include value chains, marketing, food security, livelihoods, natural resources management, technological change, planning, monitoring and evaluation, project design and program management. Before joining CRS he worked as a manager, planner and researcher. Legesse has a PhD in agricultural economics

Juan Pablo Demeure
Director, Centro para el Desarrollo Social y Económico (DESEC)
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Juan currently serves as the Director of DESEC and CEO of Multiagro S.A., a timber production and forestry company. He has extensive experience in forestry issues and the timber production value chain as well as in the elaboration and implementation of social development projects and international certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council and Fairtrade. Jorge has a Bachelor of Social Sciences with a minor in Business Administration from Adolfo Ibañez University in Chile, with postgraduate studies in Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).


Suyapa Diaz Diaz
RSPO Coordinator, Grupo Jaremar
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Suyapa is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Coordinator for Grupo Jaremar, a large Central American food and beverage company that produces RSPO-certified palm oil and assists the small farmer association, UNPALA, in achieving certification. Based in Honduras, Jaremar markets most of their products within Central America. Before acting as RSPO Coordinator for both Jaremar and the small producer groups it sources from, Suyapa worked in the management of palm oil extraction for 15 years.

Mamadou Diop
Finance/Investment Advisor, Engility
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Mamadou is the Finance and Investment Advisor of the Feed the Future Senegal Naatal Mbay Project. He is an expert in agricultural value chain finance with significant experience in donor-funded international development projects. He has a strong knowledge of the financial sector and investment climate in Africa, SME finance and agribusiness development. Mamadou also has hands-on expertise in business development services, integrated finance models, capacity building for financial institutions and climate risk mitigation strategies.


Dr. Dougbedji Fatondji
Agronomist, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
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Based in Niger, Dougbedji is a Senior Agronomist at ICRISAT. With extensive work and research history in the areas of nutrient and water interaction in the indigenous soil conservation technique called ‘Zai,’ he has a strong understanding of soil fertility build-up in degraded lands as well as of the importance of organic input and management in the Sahelian farming system. He holds a PhD in Soil Science from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University of Bonn.

Shaun Ferris
Director Agriculture, Catholic Relief Services
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Shaun works with the Agricultural Livelihoods team at CRS to develop strategies that support smallholder farmers to improve their food, financial and nutritional security. His specific responsibilities include developing marketing and training materials to build the agro-enterprise capacity of field staff, and working with public and private sector agencies to develop new business models for inclusive market linkage.


Dennis Garrity
President, Evergreen Agriculture Partners
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Dennis is a systems agronomist and research leader who has focused on the development of small-scale farming systems in the tropics. He is currently Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute and Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi. He is currently focusing on building an African land restoration movement and is leading an effort to perennialize global agriculture in the 21st Century by chairing the global Partnership to create an EverGreen Agriculture.

El Hadji Abdou Gueye
Deputy Chief of Party, Feed the Future Senegal Naatal Mbay Project, Engility
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El Hadji Abdou is the Deputy Chief of Party for the Feed the Future Senegal Naatal Mbay Project. Specializing in agri-food value chains and institutional development, he has extensive experience in the implementation of quality management and certification of agricultural products. He has developed and overseen innovative traceability, climate risk management, value chain financing and agricultural trade promotion systems, all of which were designed to establish sustainable linkages between the private sector and small-scale producers.


Noel Gurwick
Advisor for Sustainable Landscapes, USAID Office of Global Climate Change
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Noel is an ecosystem scientist with over 20 years of experience conducting and managing policy-relevant research for diverse stakeholders. As advisor for Sustainable Landscapes in USAID’s Office of Global Climate Change, he oversees work on low-emissions development in agriculture. Prior to USAID, Noel contributed to developing carbon offset protocols and sustainability indexes for growers and food retailers. He also served at the U.S. Department of State, advancing bioenergy initiatives in Latin America. Noel holds Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry and an M.S. in Natural Resource Policy.

Geoff Heinrich
Senior Technical Advisor for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Livelihoods, Catholic Relief Services
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Geoff is a Senior Technical Advisor for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Livelihoods for the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Geoff provides technical assistance to CRS agriculture and environment programs primarily in Africa through sharing innovations, managing learning opportunities, and strengthening relationships with advanced research institutions, PVOs, the Public Sector, and donors. He has a Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Science and 30 years of on-farm R&D experience with smallholder farmers. Geoff has been working with climate smart agriculture for several years now and represents CRS on the Africa-wide AU-NEPAD iNGO Alliance for Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture in Africa.


Brigit Helms
General Manager, Multilateral Investment Fund, IDB
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Brigit is the general manager of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund. She has nearly 30 years’ experience finding innovative private sector solutions to development problems in over 30 developing countries. Before Inter-American Development Bank, Brigit was the Chief of Party for the USAID/Mozambique support program for economic and enterprise development. She has held positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce, CGAP, and IFC. Brigit received a B.S. from Santa Clara University and a Ph.D in Economics from Stanford University. She speaks English, Spanish, and French.

Rob Henning
Agriculture and Food Security Director, Chemonics International
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Rob Henning has worked for over 20 years to promote investment and growth in developing countries. He works at all levels of emerging economies from the grassroots to the boardroom, creating prosperity through entrepreneurship, value chain development, frontier market investing and market research. At Chemonics, he leads the Agriculture and Food Security technical practice. He holds an MBA from Georgetown University and served as a small enterprise development volunteer with the Peace Corps in Benin.


Paul Hicks
Water Resources Coordinator, Catholic Relief Services
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Paul is the Water Resources Coordinator for CRS in Latin America, with nearly twenty years of experience in water resources management and agricultural development. His current work focuses on promoting sustainable agriculture and the conservation of drinking water sources. Paul has a Master’s degree in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis. For CRS, he has lived and worked in Albania, Mindanao (Philippines), Afghanistan, and Central America.

Bronwyn Irwin
Practice Manager for Agriculture and Food Security, Engility
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Bronwyn is an agricultural economist focused on strengthening market systems to increase smallholder incomes while improving natural resource management. As Practice Manager for Agriculture and Food Security at IRG, an Engility company, Ms. Irwin provides technical and management support to a portfolio of projects. Previously, as COP for the REALIZ program in Zimbabwe, Ms. Irwin oversaw the design and delivery of a facilitative approach to strengthening the horticultural value chain through contract farming arrangements.


Aly-Khan Jamal
Associate Partner, Dalberg Global Development Advisors
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Aly-Khan is the Director of Dalberg’s London office and leads our Agriculture and Food Security expertise area. His experience includes roles in and advisory for the entire agriculture value chain and agro-allied businesses, including upstream inputs, supply and manufacturing, commercial and smallholder agriculture and much more. His experience spans focusing on individual crops or segments of the value chain, to country and even multi-country strategies that aim to drive transformational growth in agriculture and agro-processing.

Gerrie Jordaan
Country Manager, Afgri Ghana Equipment
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Gerrie is the Country Manager for Afgri Ghana Equipment, which is the sole distributor for John Deere in Ghana. He has facilitated climate smart agricultural equipment leasing to low-income farmers through Afgri Ghana’s partnership with Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans and the USAID-FinGAP project. He has over 35 year of experience in the agriculture industry.


Jules Kazunga
Director General, Regional Research Centre for Integrated Development
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Jules is a Rwandan professional with over 10 years of working experience in agribusiness in Rwanda where he currently serves as the Director General of RCID. Before joining RCID, Jules worked as soil management researcher for the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and as a researcher in agriculture at the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). Jules has an MSc in Agroforestry and Soil Management from the National University of Rwanda.

Ellen Kendall
Associate Consultant, Dalberg Global Development Advisors
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Ellen is an Associate Consultant in Dalberg’s London office. Ellen joined in June 2015 after completing an MPhil in Development Studies in Cambridge where she focused on agricultural development as a means to improve livelihoods and drive inclusive economic development. In Dalberg, Ellen has continued her focus on agriculture by working with the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to conduct research on the challenges for and potential of renovation and rehabilitation of smallholder farmer land.


Mario Kerby
Project Director, Chemonics International
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Mario is an experienced project leader with more than 30 years of experience leading complex, multidisciplinary projects in agricultural competitiveness, agribusiness development, watershed and environmental management, and capacity development. In Haiti with the USAID-funded Feed the Future West/WINNER project, Mario oversaw a multidisciplinary watershed investment fund and helped the project achieve impressive gains in target value chains. He has also led two large scale projects in Morocco.

Lauren Leifeste
Private Sector Engagement Specialist, Engility
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Lauren is the Private Sector Engagement Specialist for Engility responsible for overseeing private sector partnerships across our development programs. Previously Lauren was a volunteer consultant in Zambia co-founding a sanitation services social enterprise. Lauren has also worked as a Business Development and Strategy Specialist for Engility and was a Lending Graduate Intern for a women's small business incubator and microfinance institution in New Mexico. Lauren received her MBA from the University of New Mexico.


Gero Leson
Director of Special Operations, Dr. Bronner's
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Gero is the Director of Special Operations for Dr. Bronner's, the best-selling brand of natural soaps in North America. Since Dr. Bronner’s began shifting sourcing of its major raw materials to organic and fair trade projects in 2005, Gero has managed the development and operation of such projects in Sri Lanka, Ghana, Kenya and India. He has over 25 years’ experience in consulting and business. Gero has an MS in Physics and a doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering.

Zacharie Manirarora
Senior Agriculture Officer, Catholic Relief Services
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Zacharie is an agronomist with 20 years of experience in the Rwandan agriculture sector. Currently he is a Senior Agriculture Officer at CRS Rwanda where he coordinates agriculture-related activities in agriculture, food security and health and nutrition projects funded by various donors including USAID, Keurig Green Mountain and the Dutch Government. He has a Bachelor degree in Agriculture with a focus on crop production.


María Martinez
Sustainable Intensification Specialist, The Nature Conservancy
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María is a sustainable intensification specialist for The Nature Conservancy. She specializes in the design and implementation of public policies and economic initiatives for development, with experience in the agricultural sector, rural sustainable development, and institutional reform. She has previously worked as the Undersecretary of Planning and Rural Development of the state of Jalisco. María holds a BA in International Relations from ITAM, as well as both a Master’s in Public Policy and an MA in Economics for Sustainable Development and Agriculture.

Juma Masumba
Agriculture and Markets Technical Integration Lead, Catholic Relief Services
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With over 14 years of experience, Juma’s work has mostly focused on agriculture extension, marketing, small-scale irrigation, environment and program management. He joined CRS in May 2006 and currently serves as the Technical Integration Lead for Agriculture and Markets on a five year USAID food security and nutrition program. Juma holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Malawi.


Melissa Matlock
Project Manager, Connexus
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Melissa is a Project Manager at Connexus where she manages and provides support to programs and new business development. Previously, she worked at the SEEP Network on microfinance association strengthening in Brazil and Africa and coordinated the Social Performance Working Group for Networks. She also conducted assessments of the national microfinance association in Uganda and of a leading MFI on external client protection in Bolivia. Prior to SEEP, Melissa served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica where she worked on accounting and governance with a local community credit organization in addition to teaching business classes. She holds a BA in Global Studies and Economics from North Central College and is fluent in Spanish.

Eduardo Mendias
Sr. Global Development Manager Micro Irrigation, Toro Company
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Eduardo is the Senior Global Development Manager, Sustainable Agriculture of Toro Micro-Irrigation. Throughout his thirteen year career in the irrigation industry, he has held various sales and marketing positions at Rain Bird, John Deere and Toro. Prior to the irrigation industry, Eduardo managed engineering and manufacturing operations in Mexico and Central America. He holds BS and BA degrees in Engineering and Economics from the University of California and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Pepperdine University.


Gilad Milo
Group Head of Business Development & Public Relations,
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Gilad is Group Head of Business Development & Public Relations for Balton CP Group, a British Multinational with subsidiaries in nine African countries. Motivated by a passion for empowering the people of Africa and coupled with a pioneering spirit for introducing new, cutting edge technologies and knowledge, the Balton CP Group remains in the forefront of agribusiness driven commercially sustainable development throughout Africa. Following six years of work with Amiran Kenya, Gilad moved to work for the group in 2014.

Dr. Chikakula Miti
Head of Climate Change Programs, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
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Chikakula is a Climate Change Coordinator at COMESA Secretariat with over 11 years of experience in private and public sector development, as well as regional policy design. Chikakula has extensive experience in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, and Kenya while he was implementing climate smart interventions aimed at supporting regional food security goals. To accomplish this task, Chikakula supervised the training of farmers and established climate smart practices. Chikakula holds a BSc, a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management, and an MSc in strategic planning.


Adeline Muheebwa
Gender and Development Consultant,
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Adeline is a gender and development consultant, currently serving as the Chairperson of the Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment (AUPWAE). She has over 17 years of experience in technology for agricultural development. Adeline received recognition from Winrock International for her contribution to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, especially women, and is a bronze medal winner for the first ever “Create and Cook with Tooke Flour” competition.

Thomas Musyoki
Senior Project Officer-Agriculture, Catholic Relief Services
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Thomas is a project manager for the Keurig Green Mountain project at CRS Kenya. He has 10 years of experience in Kenya working on smallholder value chains, livelihoods, microfinance and food security. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Nairobi and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Agronomy.


Athanase Niamien
CEO, Agrivar
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Athanase is the Managing Director of AGRIVAR, a company that has strong value chain linkages with neighboring palm producer cooperatives and the first and only palm oil processor in Ivory Coast certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Anthanase has 20 years of experience in important local and foreign engineering and industrial firms and at AGRIVAR, he specializes in palm oil transformation and extraction, and the specific impacts on small farmers and the environment as a result of growing organic palm oil.

Humberto Oliviera
Vice President, SENAR Bahia
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Humberto is a veterinarian by training who has always been actively engaged in the social and political movement of the state of Bahia. He was President of the Labor Union of the Miguel Calmon municipality and then Major of the same municipality. Currently he is Vice President of SENAR Bahia. SENAR is the largest technical assistance organization in Brazil. In the state of Bahia, it provides technical training to over 2800 farmers yearly.


Satish Pillarisetti
Executive Director, Sa-Dhan
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Satish is the Executive Director of Sa-Dhan, the national association of community development finance institutions in India. Previously, he headed the Micro Credit Innovations Department of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as the Chief General Manager. Prior to this, he headed the Maharashtra Regional Office at Pune where he undertook many pioneering initiatives, including the Climate Change Adaptation Project. He has an MBA in Finance, an MS in Economics, and a PhD in Economics.

James Quarshie
Chief of Party, USAID Development Food Assistance Program, Niger, Catholic Relief Services
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James is Chief of Party of the $40 Million USAID Food For Peace-funded Development Food Assistance Program in Niger. He has a wide range of program knowledge, including natural resource management in the tropics and sub tropics, food aid management, microenterprise, rural reconstruction, agricultural extension and integrated community development. He has a Master of Science in Agricultural Sciences, Food Security and Natural Resource Management in the Tropics and Sub-Tropics from the Universität Hohenheim in Germany.


Frank Rubio
Global Head Agriculture, Oikocredit
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Frank is both Oikocredit’s Head of Global Agriculture and the Regional Manager for the South America Northern Region. Oikocredit is a Netherlands-based social investor that operates in 60 countries worldwide, working for the triple-bottom-line of people, planet and profit. Frank has 25 years of experience in microfinance and agricultural development through companies such as Catholic Relief Services, CARE-USA and the Inter-American Development Bank. He currently manages Oikocredit’s worldwide agricultural portfolio of $150 million.

Benjamin Schmerler
Director of Investment Relations, Root Capital
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Ben is responsible for building relationships and engagement strategies with existing and potential donors and investors (foundation, institutions, corporates, and individuals). He provides management, oversight, and leadership towards achieving Root Capital's overall philanthropy targets. Previously he worked as senior supply chain manager, coffee and consulting services for Fair Trade USA and as co-director and teacher at the John F. Kennedy Institute for African Studies. Ben holds a B.A. in environmental policy and political science from the University of Washington.


Gordon Smith
Technical Lead, Sustainable Lands Component, USAID CEADIR
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Gordon is the Technical Lead for the Sustainable Lands component of the USAID Climate Economic Analysis for Development, Investment and Resilience (CEADIR) project. Since 1994, Gordon has worked on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by changing land use. He has expertise in forest carbon sequestration, avoided forest emissions (REDD+), soil carbon, manure management, fertilizer nitrous oxide and soil methane.

Patrick Starr
Finance Specialist, Connexus
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Patrick is a Finance Specialist at Connexus where he focuses on building local management capacity and developing agricultural value chains. Patrick began his career at PwC where he worked advising federal clients on projects related to human capital and sustainability. He then took his skills to Benin where he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. He holds a degree in Finance from the University of Notre Dame as well as an MBA from Cornell University.


Nancy Stetson
U.S. Special Representative for Global Food Security, U.S Department of State
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Dr. Stetson is responsible for all aspects of U.S. diplomacy related to food security and nutrition. Her diplomatic efforts to advance global food security and nutrition targets donors, developing countries, emerging economies, multilateral organizations, civil society and the private sector. During her long tenure in the Senate, working with then-Senator Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dr. Stetson traveled extensively in Africa and Asia, building expertise in the importance of food security to human and economic development and contributing to some of the U.S. government’s major foreign policy achievements.

Tim Strong
Regional Agricultural Finance Adviser, Opportunity International
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Tim coordinates the implementation of the Branch-less Banking and Digital Financial Services initiatives throughout Opportunity’s implementing members in Africa. He has worked in Southern and Eastern Africa since 2005 and before Opportunity, he worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Peace Corps and the Clinton Foundation. He received a BSc in Biochemistry and Plant Physiology from the University of California at Davis and holds an MA in Environmental Policy and an MBA in Operations and Supply Chain Management.


Dr. Maximo Torero
Division Director of the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division, International Food Policy Research Institute
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Maximo is the MTI Division Director at the International Food Policy Research Institute, leader of the Global Research Program on Institutions and Infrastructure for Market Development and Director for Latin America. In this capacity as director and research program leader, he directs the activities of an IFPRI unit that conducts research, with special emphasis on M&E of infrastructure and rural development interventions. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Economics.

Ginya Truitt Nakata
Operations Senior Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank
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As the Coordinator of AgroLAC 2025, Ginya develops and implements engagement strategies for food security, trade and integration, and biodiversity with NGOs, foundations, private sector organizations and development actors operating throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Previously, at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Ginya led the gender program in 42 Western, Central, and Eastern European countries. She holds a BA in International Management and Spanish, and an MA in International Development.


Dymphna van der Lans
CEO, Clinton Climate Initiative
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Dymphna van der Lans serves as the CEO of the Clinton Climate Initiative, where she oversees climate and energy related programs within the Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dymphna served as the senior director for public policy programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States Dymphna holds advanced degrees from both Leiden University and the University of Beijing. She earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Rice University and is also a graduate from Dialogos, Leadership for Collective Intelligence.

Leo Vasquez
Director of the Office of Strategy Management, ECOM
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Leo serves as the Director of Strategic Public Affairs for the ECOM trading organization. With activities in over 40 countries and a focus on coffee, cocoa, and cotton, ECOM is a recognized global commodities supply chain leader, from sustainable development with farmers to industrial-scale manufacturing. Utilizing his expertise in strategic planning, finance and mergers and aquisitions, Leo works on building partnerships with ECOM and the global development community. He is a graduate of Yale University and earned his MBA from Columbia University.


Aissata Wane
Regional Finance Coordinator, NCBA CLUSA
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Aissata S. Wane is a Regional Finance Manager at NCBA CLUSA. She has over 10 years of experience in finance, contracts, and grants management with significant senior-level financial and administrative experience at NCBA CLUSA HQ and field offices. She was the Finance Director of Yaajeende, one of USAID’s flagship Feed the Future projects. She has developed and operationalized finance systems; designed administrative, financial, and personnel management procedures manuals; and ensured financial and operational compliance with donor requirements. Aissata holds a MBA in Finance from American University.

Samantha Wapnick
Gender, Climate, and Knowledge Management Manager, Naatal Mbay, Engility
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Samantha manages all cross-cutting technical areas as the Manager of Gender, Climate Change and Knowledge Management for the Feed the Future Senegal Naatal Mbay Project. She brings professional experience designing and implementing programs that target increased food security and community resilience through improved natural resource management and environmentally sustainable agricultural interventions. She was previously the Technical Coordinator for USAID Senegal Accelerated Growth and Increased Competitiveness Economic Growth Project and has worked on numerous projects related to climate change and natural resources.


Dr. Marit Wilkerson
Climate Change Advisor, Bureau for Africa, USAID
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Marit is a conservation scientist dedicated to finding strategies and solutions based in interdisciplinary research that address applied, real-world conservation issues. As a Climate Change Advisor with the Bureau for Africa at USAID, she integrates climate change into Agency policy and process and provide technical assistance as needed to our in-country field offices. Marit’s portfolio centers on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and within that, she works to mainstream CSA within the Agency where relevant and to ensure that CSA research and projects directly feed into positive, sustained development impacts.

Ayrin Zahner
Manager, USAID Mali Climate Change Adaption Activity, Chemonics International
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Ayrin is the manager of the USAID Mali Climate Change Adaptation Activity. She has over 10 years’ experience implementing and managing climate change adaptation projects in West Africa and the US, including community-based dune stabilization in Mauritania, local governments “climate action planning” in California, and urban garden projects in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Nairobi, Kenya. Ms. Zahner holds a B.A. in International Sustainable Development and an M.C.P. (master of city and regional planning) with a focus on climate change planning.

This conference is organized by Connexus Corporation