Changing experiences via Agripool


Ankie Wijnen and Cecile Snijders, who live in the same village in Brabant, the Netherlands, have a lot in common. Their commitment to the Agripool, for example, for which they share their knowledge and experience in developing countries.

Ankie Wijnen is chairman of cooperative AB Werkt Zuid-Nederland, Rabobank Peelland Zuid, Rabo Foundation and the Gezondheidsdienst voor Dieren (Animal Health Service). Her neighbour, Cecile Snijders, works as a communications professional. She does most of her work as an independent entrepreneur under the name Breinkracht.

 Together with their spouses, they are also partners in dairy farm Koe & Koe. But there is another similarity: both have gone on the road for Agriterra. In early August, Ankie gave a 'female leadership' training in Rwanda, for local banks. Cecile went to Ethiopia for a marketing and branding workshop at two coffee unions.

Female leadership

What does such a training course look like? "In three days, attendees think about the position of women in the cooperative, and how we can ensure more equality," Ankie says of the female leadership training. "In the Netherlands, we are not always quite there yet either, but in developing countries women are often still viewed quite differently." This translates, for example, to loans issued by banks: women are allowed to borrow less than men.

 First, only women attend, then male colleagues are also invited. "In the end, both groups have to change. Awareness is important: if you want your team to succeed, you desperately need women's input," Ankie knows from experience. "I also hold a position in cooperatives and know the female perspective. We therefore exchanged experiences."

Marketing workshop

Cecile also drew on her own experiences during the marketing and communication workshop for the two coffee unions. "In terms of marketing, there is a lot to be gained by these big boys of Ethiopia. A structured approach is often still lacking”, she says. By making improvements in this, the unions can fine-tune their position step by step and thus allow coffee farmers at the beginning of the chain to earn more. "The primary interest is a fair price, but that can only be achieved by adding value to the chain and thus putting a higher price tag on products," says Cecile. Her task: to provide an actionable methodology and ask the right questions, in order to make targeted improvements in their marketing approach.

Spontaneous dancing

Isn't that difficult, organizing a training in a country where you have been rarely or even not at all? It isn’t, the two agree. But it is important to take the context and cultural differences into account. To give an example, Ankie explains that social status is viewed differently. At lunch, for instance, someone was expected to bring food from the buffet for her, as the leader of the event. "Of course we don't want that. They say there that the Netherlands is flat, and that we also think flat."

 Another cultural difference: in Ethiopia and Rwanda, people who arrive late are treated differently than back in the Netherlands. "Latecomers have to do a dance, in front of the group," laughs Cecile. Ankie: “Indeed, and sometimes people spontaneously start singing and dancing in between. That would make Dutch meetings a lot more fun!"

Action plan

The trainings have undoubtedly produced results. An action plan has been drawn up and Agriterra checks whether it is being adhered to. Ankie: "It has been decided, for example, that women are allowed to borrow higher amounts from the bank, and more women are being sought to become members of cooperative boards." The two think the action plan is a good move. "It cannot be that we meet for three days, split up, and then nothing happens," says Ankie.

 This is precisely why the women enjoy being part of the Agripool. "It is a beautiful adventure that has come my way," Cecile explains. "It is intensive but fantastic to be able to contribute something." Ankie, too, loves being able to help people take a step forward. In addition, participating in the Agripool opens one's eyes. Cecile: "You see what riches you have. It is literally a world of difference."

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